|After five decades, a dozen albums, BMA and Grammy nominations, Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps emerge with their new studio album Rose-Colored Glasses Vol 1 on Blue Heart Records. The timeless expression alludes to seeing the world from an optimistic point of view, one full of hopes and dreams, as B.C. Forbes said “optimism is a tonic. pessimism is poison.” James and her Rhythm Tramps have assembled a collection of a dozen new songs that reflect that point of view. Each one is filled with romantic notions of jubilant love, redemption, perseverance, strength, and joy.
James and her partner in crime, Terry Wilson, who produced the album, wrote/co-wrote all the songs, were again joined by a splendid cast of characters that make up The Rhythm Tramps, along with some special guests. Mainstay guitarist Billy Watts with Wilson on bass and alternating drummers, Jay Bellerose and Herman Matthews, maintain the rhythm section throughout, with a selection of exceptional Texas guitar players such as Yates McKendree, Anson Funderburgh, Johnny Lee Schell, Lee Roy Parnell, and Snuffy Walden in the mix. They are joined by Paulie Cerra and Darrell Leonard on horns, with vocalists Richard Millsap, Nicki Bluhm, Michael Starr on strings, and Kevin McKendree on keys. The project, recorded over a year and a half in California, has that undeniable smooth West Coast Canyon Country sound.
James demonstrates her southern charms on the smoldering opener “Show Me How You Do It,” coaxing her lover to reveal his secrets like a demure coquette. The horn driven “Takes One To Know One,” swings with romance and flair as James’ vocals are mirrored was tasty leads from fellow Texan Funderburgh. Bay Area singer songwriter Nicki Bluhm co-wrote the title track with Wilson and sang backup vocals adding another layer to the beautifully crafted love song that is the album’s shortest track, but possibly its sweetest. Bellerose delivers one of his signature hypnotic grooves on the seductive rumba “I Got A Love I Wanna Hold On To,” while the horns dart back and forth in the background. The cinematic jazz ballad “All You Ever Bring Me Is The Blues,” evokes images of 1950’s film noir, with James stepping into the role of the femme fatale for the provocative melodrama with deadly confidence. Taking its name from an episode of the Twilight Zone, the swampy “Wish It Into The Cornfield,” recants the tale of a homeless Vet, who despite a world of trouble holds on to hope. The celebratory boogaloo, “Once The World Stops Ending,” encourages us all to stay vigilant for better days are ahead. Jay B lays down the ‘one drop’ for “Everybody Everybody,” a reggae fueled call for unity and peace. Legendary country blues guitarist, Lee Roy Parnell, adds in some greasy slide playing and Kevin McKendree from the Delbert McClinton Band handles the keyboards on the slinky examination “Things Ain’t Like That.”
The sophisticated arrangement and pure romance of “When My Baby Comes Home,” should ensure that the piano ballad is destined to become a classic. Guitarist Snuffy Walden, who worked with Wilson in the Eric Burdon Band, sits in on “Rise Together,” lending his Emmy-Award-winning skills on this call-to-arms anthem. Red Dirt ramble, “Gimme Some Skin,” takes us to the church for the finale with trumpets sounding a rallying cry as James encourages us by declaring “a little bit of love is still loving, any amount of forgiveness can move mountains, just a tiny touch, is still touching someone, we can do it.” Édith Piaf sang of living life in a pair of rose-colored glasses and John Lennon heeded her advice turning them into a symbol of modern counterculture. Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps have distilled their iconography into a musical portrait that reflects their personal world view earned through hard work and dedication to their art.
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 act made up of players that have either played or recorded with such artists as Joe Bonamassa, Keb’ Mo’, Taj Mahal, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Burdon & the Animals, Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Jimmy Reed, Lightin’ Hopkins, Jimmie Vaughan, Allen Toussaint, B.B. 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.
Teresa and the band have toured all over North America and Europe and have played such music festivals as Notodden 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.
James 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 reviews in DownBeat and two of her previous albums have been awarded Independent Music Awards for blues by popular vote. Their previous studio album, “Here In Babylon,” gained a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album. And, recently, their song, ‘Forgetting You,’ received second-place honors in the 2019 Unsigned Only blues category.