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Yamaguchi Hiroshi (Heatwave)

Rarely do I hear a Japanese singer and wish I understood the words he was singing. Its not that Yamaguchi Hiroshi (Heatwave) played such amazing music that I thought his lyrics must be brilliant, its just that I got such a good fealing sitting and listening to him, I imagined that the lyrics would only make me feel better. You can't go wrong with ther word "Happiness" in your chorus if you can manage to sing it with both sincerity and irony at the same time.

Speaking of that singing, its half of what made Yamaguchi so enjoyable (the other 42.6% would have to go to his acoustic guitar playing, a crisp strum and pick, and the remaining 7.4% is his plaintive Neil Young unplugged harmonica). He has bold, melifluous and versatile baritone, not unlike Grant Lee Phillips when he chooses sing in the lower registers.

What strikes me about Yamaguchi is how great a soundtrack it would be to walking around a middle class Japanese neighborhood in the evening, past the carefully tended gardens and tighly parked cars. He is the good-looking and successful guy with the yearning heart of an artist. I'm not sure why, but I can imagine Keanu Reeves starring in his videos, walking through the neighborhood furrowing his brow at the ground, hands stuffed in coat pockets. In fact, I think most karaoke videos were made forYamaguchi's music.

But I don't mean to be snarky. I like this kind of stuff. He's melodic enough to grab your attention but moody enough to keep you interested, something like Leonard Cohen playing John Mayer. He even played a howling high and lonesome Chris Isaak/Bruce Springsteen acoustic blues in which he was in fact singing either "Baby I'm a Blues" or "Baby I'm a Bruce", I'm not quite sure which, but I'm going to go ahead and hope it was "Bruce".



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