Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Town and Country - Shorter Artist Feature from Issue #20 March-April 1999

Petty Booka

Country & Far Eastern


Alternative country can have more than one meaning once you get out of Dodge. For Petty Booka, the alternative country is Japan, and their venue is the 24-hour craziness of Tokyo. In the audio wasteland that is Japanese pop, only the strong or really perverse can survive the overwhelming pressure to conform. But for Petty Booka, it’s an opportunity to do something different, and with exquisite taste.

Tomomi Asano (a.k.a. Petty) and Yuka Yamada (Booka) were already signed to Benten, an alternative indie label whose acts are exclusively women. Label manager Kimura Shisaka explains that “Benten is the only female in the seven lucky gods of Japan; she’s our inspiration.” The outrageously funny and downright raunchy nature of some of Benten’s promotional material sinks any image of meek Asian women.

When Asano and Yamada’s punk band Flamenco A-Go-Go broke up, they decided to try a new adventure. So, they teamed up with Hiroshi Asada, one Japan’s top producers, and set out to see how far they could bend the rules of American music forms. “Country music and Hawaiian music were really popular in Japan through the ’60s,” Asada says, “but it is really rare to hear it these days. It is something new to young Japanese.”

Since then, Petty Booka have recorded nine CDs on Benten’s subsidiary label Sister Records, evenly split between their takes on Hawaiian and country styles. The odd one out is Christmas Everywhere, which features songs such as “Christmas In Prison” and “My Two Front Teeth”. Their most recent country CDs are 1996′s Fujiyama Mama, which features covers of songs by the likes of Junior Brown, Paul Seibel and Hank Williams, and 1997′s Sweetheart Of The Radio, on which they render classics by John Fogerty, Hank Snow and Gillian Welch, among others.

Indeed, what sets Petty Booka apart from every Japanese C&W band hoping to hit it big on the military base circuit is their unusual song selection. It’s rare to hear Madonna’s “Material Girl” in any country band, just as it is to hear the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” done with ukuleles (as on their 1998 Hawaiian-music disc “Blue Lagoon”).

Petty Booka’s harmonies are deliciously sweet with a strong Stanley Brothers feel, but accented by a melting Japanese lilt. While most Japanese idol bands cannot sing or play, these women can do both and are backed in the studio by local players who can flat-out smoke on their instruments. Petty Booka’s music is ultimately difficult to categorize, but their sheer talent and offbeat take on American roots music deserves a listen.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108


Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #20 March-April 1999

Cover of Issue #20 March-April 1999

Sorry, this issue is SOLD OUT

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »

From the Blogs

  • By the Time You Read This, It'll Be Over: A Pre-Newport Ramble
    Missing the first night -- likely the best of the three, given my taste and interest -- is sort of a bummer. But, on the other hand there's still two more days and nights to wander around the festival site, to hopefully discover a new act or the reinvention of something old. And, to be completely honest, the music and performances will run second to jus […]
  • Your Interview with the Jayhawks' Gary Louris
    A couple of weeks ago, we announced a contest to give away some copies of the Jayhawks' remastered and reissued editions of Sound of Lies, Smile, and Rainy Day Music. In the process, we asked you to pose questions you'd like to see Jayhawks founding member Gary Louris answer. Fifty folks entered and Jayhawk Gary Louris… […]
  • Lake Street Dive Motorboats into the Big Time
    The usual pleasantries open the interview with Lake Street Dive's singer extraordinaire, Rachael Price. There’s a mention of a shared acquaintance and a nod to the band's previous appearances in town, the first before a tiny crowd at Norfolk's Taphouse in 2011. "Oh, I recall," Price says. "That was a very memorable show." I […]
  • Chris Smither - Still on the Levee, A Fifty Year Retrospective (Album Review)
    I first heard Chris Smither in 1970. Not live, unfortunately, but on vinyl when picking up his first record I'm A Stranger Here Myself on the Poppy label, unheard, for the simple reason that it was Townes' label. I figured -- rightly so -- any label that knew what a talent he was could certainly be trusted. It did not disappoint. The album not only […]
  • No Depression Is Getting a Facelift: A Note About What's Around the Bend
    Ever since we announced that No Depression had been acquired by FreshGrass back in March, we’ve heard from many of you with questions, concerns, and ideas about the future of this website and the community that gathers here. We created a forum topic at that time so we could organize these comments and refer to them frequently, which we have done as we’ve dev […]
  • Vancouver International Folk Music Festival Day One (Jericho Beach, Vancouver BC - July 18th, 2014)
    A glorious run of unseasonably warm weather for a couple of weeks in Vancouver had me all but convinced that the 37th annual edition of the Vancouver International Folk Music Festival would see rain. We can rarely rely on the sun for that long in the Pacific Northwest, so it seemed like a sure thing. As it turns out I was wrong —… […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!

Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter