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Album Review

The best way to describe Teresa James' lusty combination of dusky blues, roots rock, gospel, dark folk, and Southern soul is to say it's Delbert McClinton inspired. McClinton has crafted his career by writing and singing potent songs that borrowed liberally from these genres, and although it would be unfair to label keyboardist/singer James as "the female Delbert," there is no denying the similarity in both musicians' styles, right down to their gutsy vocals. Perhaps it's no coincidence that James has also participated in some of Delbert's famous cruises where she likely picked up pointers from the master. Regardless, this is a solid, often captivating album of generally upbeat Americana-infused soul-blues with lots of sassy attitude from James and terrific backing from her journeyman band. A two-piece horn section joins the fray on all the tracks, bringing additional soul coloring to the proceedings. James' voice is influenced by Bonnie Bramlett and indeed this album can be seen as an updated slice of Delaney & Bonnie at that group's early-'70s pinnacle. Give credit to veteran bassist/guitarist Terry Wilson, who wrote or co-composed all but the closing cover of Steve Bruton's "I Do My Drinkin' on the Weekend" (Bruton has contributed a track to nearly every James album). These songs have street-smart lyrics that fit James' often sexy/bad-mama persona ("Put the Squeeze on Me," "I Know Handsome When I See It") and gruffly seductive voice. Comparisons to Marcia Ball, Susan Tedeschi, and Bonnie Raitt are also in order, but James stamps this sound with her own personality. The party goes down to New Orleans for "Eieio" with slinky second-line funk not far from Little Feat territory, especially due to James' Bill Payne-styled piano work. Guest Terry Ball blows haunting harp on the feline groove of the title track, a churched-up slow swamp sizzler connecting being laid off of a job with more personal matters. The playing is tight, the tunes are tough, and James sounds loose and enthusiastic, resulting in one of her finest albums and surely a disc all Delbert McClinton fans will enjoy.

The Bottom Line, Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps
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