Pianist and vocalist Teresa James is back with her band, the Rhythm Tramps, for her tenth album, Here in Babylon. Teresa is often compared to Bonnie Raitt but she has a sound which is very much her own: a silkier, more soulful timbre. Her output is usually based across the roots, blues, gospel and soul landscape, and this latest album is no exception.
Her previous output has featured a plethora of musicians, although the current band is now pretty stable, and with a fine heritage behind them too.
The opening song, I Know I Ain’t Been So Perfect, is a soul-drenched tune and sets the tone for the album. Each member of the band is really solid behind the vocals and all are obviously very skilful. This is demonstrated perfectly by Bellerose’s drums and Watts’ slide on the title track, Here In Babylon. The vocals are delightful while they deliver what seems to be a political message to the powers that wannabe. Give Me a Holler is a bluesy shuffle, replete with horns followed by Head Up, Heart Open which echoes true Rhythm and Blues deliciously. Next, a carefully placed drop in tempo as Teresa comes over all nocturnal soul on I Keep Drifting Away. Nocturnal soul, I hear you ask… it’s the only thing I could come up with to describe how Teresa manages to summon up a mood such as this. Ground Zero is an interesting take on the famed Robert Johnson crossroads story and features some stunning guitar from Watts. Hold On has less of an impact for me, with its Motown feel.
The album’s standout track has to where James pays homage to the late Gregg Allman on The Day the Blues Came to Call. A great song which, were he alive, I think Gregg would have happily collaborated on or even included on his own album. Honky Tonk rules on I Gotta Roll. Another change of feel comes with the swing and brass on You Had to Bring That Up. Then we get a gospel feel colouring 21st Century Man. The album closes in celebratory style on Find Me a Bar. This wouldn’t have been out of place on a Bo Diddly recording as it has his sense of timing and mood.
If you like your blues soulful, or you like your soul touched with blues, not forgetting a gospel and country twang then this album has just those elements. For me, it is one of those ‘lay back with a drink, put the world on hold and listen’ albums I will always revisit.
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- I Know I Ain’t Been So Perfect
- Here In Babylon
- Give Me A Holler
- Head Up, Heart Open
- I Keep Drifting Away
- Ground Zero
- Hold On
- You Had To Bring That Up
- The Day The Blues Came To Call
- I Gotta Roll
- 21st Century Man
- Find Me A Bar
Teresa James – vocals, keyboards
Billy Watts – guitar, vocals
Terry Wilson – bass, vocals
Jay Bellarose – drums, percussion
Mike Finnigan – Hammond B-3 organ
Darrell Leonard – trumpet, trombone
Joe Sublett – saxophone