“Shakkitose” is the third album from Tsuru to Kame, a duo made up of female singer Shigeri Kitsu and shamisen player and singer Katsuaki Sawada. While minyo (folk songs) are dying out in communities, Sawada and Kitsu have been busily learning the songs from the locals and the original lyrics, which over the years had become desensitized. Many of the songs here are used to accompany dances at festivals such as the opener “Gosho Ondo” from around Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture, and “Nishimonai Bon Odori” from Akita Prefecture, northern Honshu. There are also working songs about planting rice, songs about the sea, mountains, ballads, children’s songs and protest songs.
Mostly recorded in a community hall in Sawada’s home village in Aomori Prefecture with a very live feel, the album really does convey the atmosphere of a bygone era. Joining the duo is Haruomi Hosono of Yellow Magic Orchestra fame, who plays percussion. It sounds like a lot of fun was had by all; yet it also sounds like an important document of a Japan all but lost. Tsuru to Kame play live at November Eleventh in Akasaka, Tokyo on Aug. 27 (7:30 p.m.; 9 p.m.).