|A native of Houston Texas, singer songwriter and roadhouse piano player, Teresa James has been based in Los Angeles since the 90’s, where she has assembled a group of some of the top L.A based touring and session musicians into her band, The Rhythm Tramps. James, whose style draws instant comparisons to Bonnie Raitt and Lou Ann Barton, is a unique figure in the blues and roots world as soprano whose voice is equal parts sweet and salty with just a sprinkle of southern twang and plenty of full-throated range.
Her tenth album ‘Here In Babylon’ is the first one that she and the Tramps tracked ‘live’ in the studio. James was joined by her longtime partner, Terry Wilson, on bass and Billy Watts on guitars along with drummer Jay Bellerose to record all the songs in two days of tracking. Bellerose is well known for his work in the rhythm section for producer T Bone Burnett and joins the Tramps for the first time to add his imaginative style of drumming and take the group in a slightly new direction. The twelve original tracks of roots, blues and soul keep the focus on James and her vocal skills backed by just the right amount of instrumental flair.
The deep blues eyed soul groove ‘I Know I Ain’t Been So Perfect,’ opens the set with Mike Finnegan on the B3 organ sparing with James on the Wurlitzer. The rolling bomber vintage drums of Bellerose and greasy slide from Watts propel the swampy funk and subtle political jabs of the title track ‘Here In Babylon.’ The horns section of Joe Sublett and Darrell Leonard join the slinky second for the NOLA inspired ‘Give Me A Holler,’ and the straight-ahead Memphis R&B styled ‘Head Up, Heart Open.’ James gets wistful on the sensuous lover’s lament ‘I Keep Drifting Away,’ with its luscious Burt Bacharach-esque chorus. She then takes us to the Crossroads for a retelling of the infamous deal between Robert Johnson and the Devil at ‘Ground Zero,’ imbibing the oft told tale with a few new twists and turns. More sweet Hammond B3 spice is added to the tasty Motown love song ‘Hold On,’ and the band swings while Leonard’s trumpet wails on the West Coast cool of ‘You Had To Bring That Up.’
James delivers a heartfelt tribute to Greg Allman on the emotional ‘The Day The Blues Came To Call,’ explaining her love for the fallen hero. The crew flips the mood on its ear with some real Texas Honky Tonk on the rowdy ‘I Gotta Roll,’ with the horns joining the party once again. James then takes us to church on the Gospel Rocker ‘21st Century Man,’ leading the choir in a timely plea for peace and for everyone to “believe in the freedom of a rock and roll beat.” Bellerose then rolls out a classic Bo Diddley beat on the tom toms for the rabble-rousing album closer ‘Find Me A Bar,’ a celebration of good times with good friends in a place where everybody knows your name.
Rick J Bowen
Teresa James was born and raised in Houston, Texas where she was introduced to music at an early age by her father and grandfather, both guitar players in the old tradition. She started playing piano at five and hasn’t stopped since. Teresa has been called a singer’s singer by many. (When the SAG Singer’s Committee got together to honor composer Randy Newman, Teresa was chosen as the soloist to perform his favorite song to him.) She has recorded with Tommy Castro, Eric Burdon, Spencer Davis, Randy Newman, Lee Roy Parnell, Neil Diamond, Walter Trout, Stephen Bruton, JP Soars and many others. She has performed live with lots of other artists, including: Levon Helm, Eric Burdon, Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball, and Doyle Bramhall, Jr. to mention just a few.
Teresa and her band the Rhythm Tramps are a Los Angeles based band made up of players that have either played or recorded with such artists as Eric Burdon & the Animals, Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Jimmy Reed, Lightin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Vaughan, Allen Toussaint, BB King, Johnny Nash, Dixie Chicks, Jennifer Warnes, Smokey Robinson, Tom Jones, Tower Of Power, just to name a few and have had their songs recorded by Paul Rodgers, Eric Burdon, Bill Medley, Tommy Castro, Marcia Ball, Janiva Magness and others. As one critic said, “there are no clichés in this band.” They move easily through Texas style grease and blues into Memphis soul or New Orleans flavored grooves and all points in between with fun and abandonment.
She was nominated by the Blues Foundation in 2008 for “Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the Year.” Teresa’s last two releases have both earned 4 Star Review in DownBeat and two of her previous CDs have been awarded Independent Music Awards for blues by popular vote.
Teresa and the band have toured all over North America and Europe and have played such music festivals as Nottodden in Norway, Moulin Osprey in Holland, Tampa Blues Festival, Main St Arts Festival in Ft. Worth, TX, Portland’s Waterfront Festival and she has been one of the featured acts on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise for the past 16 years.
Terry Wilson – bass, vocals, songwriting, production
A prolific songwriter, he has had songs recorded by many artists and featured in many movies and TV shows. He has recorded or performed with Jimmy Reed, Eric Burdon, Johnny Nash, Kim Wilson, Delbert McClinton, Coco Montoya, and many others.
Billy Watts – guitars, vocals
A consummate guitarist who has performed or recorded with Jennifer Warnes, Eric Burdon, Lucinda Williams, Dixie Chicks, Norm MacDonald and many others
Jay Bellarose – drums, percussion
This versatile drummer is one of the most sought-after players in Los Angeles. He has worked with BB King, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Alison Kraus and Robert Plant, Hugh Laurie, Joe Henry and many, many others.
Mike Finnegan – organ
A brilliant keyboardist and amazing singer, he has recorded with Rod Stewart, Etta James, Dave mason, Stephen Stills and toured with Bonnie Raitt, Etta James, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young among many others.
Darrell Leonard – trumpet
With his soulful trumpet and stunning horn arrangements, Darrell has performed or recorded with such diverse artists as The Blues Brothers, Shania Twain, Neil Diamond, Elton John, Leon Russell, and so many more.
Joe Sublett – saxophone
This talented player has worked with a huge array of artists including Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bette Midler, Little Feat, BB King and many others.