Suguru Ikeda: Sail

Sail is the new album from Iriomote Island’s Suguru Ikeda. The popular singer and sanshin player, now 34, has released several albums including a Best selection three years ago. He seems to have two discrete styles. The first is as an interpreter of traditional island songs. In 2004 he made Yaima-uta a fine album of old songs from Yaeyama recorded with just sanshin and piano, but since then he has more frequently followed his other style as a singer-songwriter and this is where we find him on Sail.

The new album contains ten songs, all of them Ikeda originals. Many of these are vignettes about friends, family and life as seen from the singer’s point of view. They are full of a generous spirit but the themes are not specifically to do with island life except for two songs. One of these refers to the tiny settlement of Funauki where Ikeda grew up on Iriomote and where he has returned to live after spending several years on Okinawa.

sail

The punchy opening track ‘Seien’ includes a brass section with saxophone, trumpet and trombone and is a departure for Ikeda from his usual mode. At the same time it’s one of the best tracks on the album and is infused with the kind of bite and power that isn’t always associated with him. The saxophone appears again on the reflective ‘Ohi-sama no e’ supplying the jazzy background on a seven minute track. The album ends in another departure with the ballad ‘Itsuka…’ which features Okinawa-based violinist Aria.

Ikeda plays sanshin on many of the tracks and also harmonica. There are some slightly less successful moments such as the attempted ska and a bit of clunkiness and sentimentality here and there. There is also the occasional suspicion that Ikeda is more concerned with telling his stories than with finding interesting and original tunes to fit them. Nevertheless the album as a whole is a step forward and shows a new maturity as well as being immaculately played and produced. Ikeda’s fans will be delighted.

Sail is released by Painukaji (PAIN-0021).

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