FolkWorld #71 03/2020
© Rick J Bowen / Blind Raccoon

Across the Western Ocean

A Lasting Testament & Fine Souvenir Keepsake


Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps: Live!

Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps "Live!" (CD, Jesi-lu Records/Blind Raccoon, 2019)

Teresa James

Artist Video Teresa James @ FROG

It is hard to measure in actual quantitative levels the amount of joy one gets from playing music with great friends, but every ounce of that emotion comes ringing through on the new release from Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps simply titled “LIVE!” The new tracks are a baker’s dozen of six original tunes and seven favorite cover songs from her two decades as a recording artist, including songs from her most recent Grammy-nominated album “Here In Babylon.” The album is a compilation of performances from four different shows at one of their favorite haunts, Bogie’s, with four different lineups of her touring band, thus creating a true representation of their live show. Anchored around her main partners in crime, Terry Wilson on bass and guitarist Billy Watts, the band is augmented by an amazing horn section featuring Lee Thornburg & Darrell Leonard on trumpet and Joe Sublett, Paulie Cerra, and Ron Dziubla on saxophone. Three award-winning drummers round out the Rhythm Tramps - Herman Matthews, Jay Bellarose and Tony Braunagel - each adding their own distinctive groove to the collection.

The album opens with the horn infused track ‘In The Pink’ from their 2007 album “Bottom Line” with James name checking several of her heroes and how they guided her to find her calling in life. James then swings into the 1964 jump boogie from The Five Royals, ‘I Like It Like That,’ leading the band with her hot barrelhouse piano. The horns sweeten the changes of the dancehall R&B favorite ‘Put The Squeeze On Me.’ The greasy soul tune with a Bill Withers feel, ‘Easier Said Than Done,’ written by Terry Wilson For the 2008 album “Oh Yeah,” features a blazing sax solo from Dzuibla. James pours her heart out on the tender blues ballad ‘Forgetting You’ that recently won second place in the 2019 Unsigned Only blues category. James trades barbs with the horns on the Motown fueled, ‘She’s Got A Way With Men,’ from the 2012 release “Come On Home,” and then is very tender on the sweet soul burner written by Terry Wilson ‘Don’t Make A Habit Of It.’

Billy Watts steps up to the plate and joins James for the fiery duet, ‘If I Can’t Have You,’ blazing their way through a loving cover of the chart-topping hit from Etta James recorded for her Chess Records debut in 1960. Tony Braunagel gets the nod to deliver some New Orleans funk on the Allen Toussaint classic ‘Shoorah Shoorah.’ James shows off her depth as a singer and songwriter and proves why she is worthy of Grammy consideration on the haunting tome ‘The Day The Blues Came To Call,’ from their acclaimed 2018 album “Here In Babylon” that earned a contemporary blues album of the year nomination. William Bell’s sentimental favorite, ‘Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday,’ is given the all-star treatment and the deep cut from fellow Delbert McClinton co-conspirator Glen Clark, ‘I Want It All,’ is a jaunty Tex-Mex romp. The set ends with what has no doubt become the theme song for Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps, ‘Long Way From Texas.’ The Houston-born gal sings about her home state on a tune that exemplifies how the band plays its own brand of “roadhouse music” that is a blend of blues, roots and soul.

Teresa James

If anyone was lucky enough to attend all four nights of these concerts, they bore witness to something amazing. The new live album from Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps is a lasting testament and a fine souvenir keepsake.


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, Jimmy 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.

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 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.

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.

Photo Credits: (1)-(3) Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps (unknown/website).

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