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Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps - Come On Home

Jesi-Lu Records 1008

12 songs – 49 minutes

Houston-born singer/barrelhouse piano player Teresa James has her fans proud by cooking up this country-tinged stew of blues, boogie, soul and Cajun funk. With 10 originals and two covers, this CD has a true, no-holds-barred ’60s feel. It was funded through a successful appeal on, the online platform for creative projects.

A veteran performer who postponed her career to raise a son and daughter, James is now throwing herself into it full-time. Levon Helm calls her “a true original -- when she sings, you feel it in your bones.” The redheaded firebrand has surrounded herself with a bevy of quality musicians on this work, her eighth CD. She and bass player/percussionist/pianist/producer Terry Wilson penned all of the originals. He doubles as Eric Burdon’s bassist in the current version of the Animals. They’re joined by guitarist Billy Watts, drummers Jim Christie and Herman Matthews, Jerry Peterson on sax, Lee Thornberg on trumpet and trombone and Debra Dobkin on percussion. Two members of the Phantom Blues Band are on board to turn up the heat -- Mike Finnigan provides perfect counterpoint to James’ piano on the Hammond B-3 organ, and famed drummer Tony Braunagel adds additional rhythm on two songs. Another top-flight keyboard player, British-born, New Orleans-based Jon Cleary, also lights a fire under two tracks.

Even though James moved to Los Angeles several years ago, she never strays from her East Texas roots. The funky horn-driven first track, “Come On Home To Me,” sets the burners to high as she admonishes a wayward lover: “Bring your sorry ass back/I ain’t done with you yet.” The Henry Fuqua/Etta James classic, “If I Can’t Have You,” follows. It’s a soul-drenched duet with Finnegan that also features a solid guitar solo by Watts. A love song -- “My Baby Knows What I Want” -- cools things off a bit before James delivers the Tommy Kay-penned “Long Way From Texas,” a hard-driving boogie that features her talent on the 88s.

James turns on the waterworks with “Forgetting You,” a tear-drenched ballad next. The horn section sets the mood as she wails: “It’s two o’clock in the morning/I keep wondering if you’re at home/Worried if I call/Would somebody else pick up the telephone.” The theme continues into the next tune, Memphis-style send-up, “Still Got The Message.” The tables are turned here, however. She’s been sitting by the receiver, but the phone never rings. The music takes a Motown turn on “She’s Got A Way With Men” and returns to Memphis for the romantic “That’s Just Love” before venturing to the bayou for “Voodoo Doll, ” in which she volunteers to be the doll to set her hoodoo man free. “Carry The Burden” follows. It’s a gospel-flavored crowd pleaser. “It’s not the road that makes you weary,” she sings. “It’s how you carry the burden all the way to the end.”

The singer admonishes a mediocre lover in the “I Can Do Better” before the funky finisher, “All I Want To Do Is Dance.” It’s an uptempo funk, but James manages to summon the ghosts of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon in the verse: “I’ll get my wang dang doodle/Maybe my Johnny Condaroo/I’ll get my mojo working/Sooner or later I’ll get back to you.”

This is a fun CD. Teresa uses tried and true recipes throughout, and the dishes are warm, satisfying and worth a second serving. .

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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