Album Reviews

Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps


Artist:     Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps

Album:     Bonafide

Label:     Jesi-Lu Music

Release Date:     10/14/2016


Widely acclaimed pianist and vocalist Teresa James is back with her killer band for her ninth album. Teresa will probably remind you somewhat aurally and visually of Bonnie Raitt, but listen again. James has a rawer, gutsier sound. And, for the record, count Raitt as one of Teresa’s admirers. A few of her bandmates play with Teresa on occasion. Musically, she might remind you of more of Delbert McClinton, as she creates a gumbo of R&B, blues, country and gospel.

Teresa originally hails from Houston, but she and her band, Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps, have become a fixture in the L.A. area for the past decade. In fact, if you visit her website and view the alumni who have played in her band, it’s a veritable who’s who of L.A. musicians. Teresa and her band have become  a staple on the blues festival circuit and Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Blues Cruise. This album features her core band augmented by guests like drummers Tony Braunagel, Jim Christie and Jay Bellerose, as well as keyboardist Mike Finnigan and various horn players.

These are mostly original songs written by her partner and bassist, Terry Wilson, typified by the swampy title track. They get off to a rollicking boogie-woogie start with a cover of the 5 Royales’ “I Like It Like That” and close with a terrific, powerhouse vocal on John Hiatt’s “Have A Little Faith in Me.” In between, they serve up a tasty mix that made her last album, 2013’s Come Home, so successful– a mix of swamp, Texas blues and West Coast swing. With top shelf musicians aboard for this outing, it’s hard to go wrong, but technical proficiency can only carry an artist so far. Teresa’s got a deep, soulful feel for this music. Her vocals are naturally strong and free of pretension. Maybe Levon Helm said it best, “Teresa James is a true original. When she sings, you can feel it in your bones.”

-Jim Hynes

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