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