Issue 13-19 May 9, 2019

Cover photo © 2019 Jim Hartzell

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Teresa James. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Leroy Ellington’s Sacred Hearts, Satan & Adam, Frank Get, Vin Mott, Phil Manca and Murali Coryell.

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Blues Wanderings 

Blue Monday at the Alamo was a real treat this week. Our friends Orphan Jon and the Abandoned played a great set. They had a “new” guitar player and drummer since we saw them at the Blues Blast Awards last September. The new band sounds awesome!

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 2019 Blues Blast Music Awards – Save The Date 

The 2019 Blues Blast Music Award submissions have now ended. Nominees will be announced in June. Voting begins in July.

SAVE THE DATE – September 13, 2019 for the Blues Blast Music Awards at Tebala Event Center in Rockford, IL. More details of the 2019 BBMAs coming soon!

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

leroy ellington's sacred hearts album imageLeroy Ellington’s Sacred Hearts – Sanctified

Infiniti Group Records IGR190101

11 songs – 56 minutes

Based out of Cincinnati, where he’s been a fan favorite for decades, Leroy Ellington is best known for his work as a sax playing front man for several of the hottest R&B bands working on both sides of the Ohio River. After switching to soul blues about seven years ago, his performances remain just as funky – as this CD clearly shows.

A perennial nominee for Cincinnati Music Awards, Ellington’s career began in the ‘80s as a member of Ritchie And The Students, a doo-wop group led by Richard Johnson, who penned “I’m So Young,” a tune picked up by the Beach Boys and featured in the movie “Cry Baby.” Before going off on his own to form a funk band in 1994, he spent several years in support of bluesman Stacy Mitchhart.

The Sacred Hearts got their start as The Leroy Ellington Band in 2012, and have been making their mark ever since. Their most recent previous release under that name, “Blue Eyed Blues,” was a semi-finalist in the best self-produced album category at the 2017 International Blues Challenge.

The Sacred Hearts roster is composed of several of the top musicians in the Queen City: Max Gise and Marcos Sastre on guitars, Charlie Fletcher on keyboards and accordion, Mike Grosser on bass and Rick “Bam” Powell on percussion. They’re enhanced on one or two cuts each by Chuck Brisbin on harmonica, Dwayne Irvin on sax, Matthew Anklan on trumpet and Chris Arduser and Teddy Wilburn on drums.

A powerful vocalist with old-school appeal who delivers fat notes with his horn, Ellington penned all 11 songs on this one. An extended stop-time intro kicks off “Good Time Blues,” which lays the groundwork for what’s to follow with the opening lines: “I don’t know what you came to do/We came here to party. You better put on your dancing shoes/We’re gonna party hardy.” And they aren’t kidding.

The funk kicks in big time on “Gotta Keep Movin’ On,” which is built atop a driving guitar riff. It’s a vow to continue on no matter what type of hardship life presents. The mood brightens with the medium-slow shuffle “Let’s Make Love,” which delivers a message that it doesn’t matter what your color – we should all get along.

The guitar-driven ballad “What Would You Do” questions how you’d live your last day on earth before the action heats up for “Doghouse,” a blues-rocker that describes the payback the singer receives after returning home from having too much fun during successful night on the town. The horn- and harp-fueled “Family Thing” repeats the need for racial harmony again atop a groovy beat before Ellington and cohorts deliver a little New Orleans soul with “Something Funky Goin’ On,” a stop-time pleaser.

The intensity drops slightly but builds throughout for the rocker “Until We Meet Again,” a message of longing and love for a father who’s on the run, while the jazzy “Two Tons Of Fun” – a description of the Sacred Hearts in action — brightens the mood dramatically. “Looking In The Mirror” — a straight-ahead slow blues — and the funky “Stone Cold Bad” – in which Ellington describes his lust for women of all shapes and sizes — bring the action to a close.

Available from Amazon, iTunes and other retailers, Sanctified smokes in an attack that’s a little harder and distinctly different from what you might hear out of Chicago, Memphis and parts south. If you’re a fan of soul blues, this one’s definitely worth a listen.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., 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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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

satan and adam movie imageSatan & Adam – The Movie

Cargo Film & Releasing

78 minutes

Suffering from emotional turmoil after the bad break-up of a long-term relationship, Adam Gussow finds himself alone, living in New York City, and drifting through life without a purpose. All of that changes one day as he strolls through the Harlem area of the city, a center for the African-American population. He stumbles across a weathered black man, furiously playing his electric guitar while keeping a beat on a hi-hat cymbal set. Mustering up his courage, Gussow respectfully asks if he can join in with his harmonica, promising the guitarist, “…I won’t embarrass you”.

From that chance encounter sprang a musical partnership, and an even deeper friendship, that spans more than three decades. The film director uses vintage B&W footage along with color film, mixes it with interview segments with people who played prominent roles in the duo’s career, and gives viewers an in-depth look at an unlikely partnership that took Satan & Adam around the world.

Right from the start, Gussow knew that Satan – Sterling Magee – was special. In one segment, he recalls, “He threw me all over the place. His groove is incredibly strong. I held on for dear life”. Later he learns that Magee once recorded for the Tangerine Records label, owned by Ray Charles, and then backed-up James Brown at the Apollo Theater. The acclaimed bass player Jerry Jemmott talks about working with Magee in the King Curtis band, when the guitarist “…played rhythms that were off the hook!” Magee was originally from Mississippi, where he was raised in the church. Later, the love of his life died suddenly, leaving him devastated and broken. Eventually he found solace in making music on the streets, becoming a community fixture as he sang about his outlook on life based on love, compassion, and respect for all.

Adding Gussow to the mix gave Magee a chance to expand his audience, but not everyone was so accepting. More than a few Harlem residents objected to the “white boy” coming to steal Mr. Satan’s music. In the 1980s, New York City was a boiling cauldron of racial tensions. At times, Gussow was given thinly veiled threats about what could happen should he keep coming around, but he refused to be intimidated. For the Princeton graduate who grew up in a small town north of NYC, making music with Magee becomes a journey on the wild side of life as a street musician. Gussow’s mother notes that her son bonded with the guitarist in a way that he never could with his own father.

The film traces the duo from their street performances, where they caught the attention of the film crew working on U2’s Rattle & Hum documentary, earning a brief spot on the soundtrack, to European tours arranged by their high-profile talent agent, recording several albums for the Flying Fish label despite Magee’s previous bad experiences with the recording industry, and then a prized spot at the 1991 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival that brought them even more attention. In 1998, Gussow’s book, Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir was published, receiving much critical acclaim.

But the film also delves into a relationship that was always on the edge, a bonding of two souls searching for peace, needing each other, struggling to reconcile two totally different backgrounds and racial identities. Miss Macie, Magee’s wife, is a constant presence, bringing an additional level of tension into play. When the couple decides to move to Virginia to be near her mother, the nine hour trip for gigs takes it’s toll on Magee. One day, he left for Virginia and never came back.

The final chapter in the film chronicles the search for Magee, who eventually is located in Florida, recovering from several health issues. Local friends and musicians take an interest in getting Magee back to playing music. Gussow finally leaves New York City for Oxford, Mississippi, where he is a professor of African-American literature. The footage of him being reunited with Magee is an emotional high point that will stick with you.

Kudos to Director V. Scott Balcerek for a masterful effort in telling the Satan & Adam story in all of its complexity, in a straight-forward fashion that thoroughly engages viewers without any appeals to maudlin sentiments. Blues fans definitely need to see this film, which is now available for viewing in limited theater release, and will be on Netflix on June 1. Highly recommended!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

frank get cd imageFrank Get – Gray Wolf

12 songs time-51:53

Seeing diversity and an international influx of music is a wonderful thing. As is sometimes the case as with Frank Get from Trieste, Italy, ethnic accents hinder the enjoyment of the listening experience. His accent along with his hoarse and hushed delivery make it difficult and at times impossible to discern the lyrics. Which is unfortunate because the musicianship here is quite good. If it wasn’t for the inclusion of a lyric sheet I would be completely lost. Fortunately Frank is an accomplished guitarist.

As it is very difficult to attain the drift of any song, your best bet here is to focus on the music that is very ably executed and takes from blues-rock, rock and R&B among others. For myself I can’t be bothered with sitting and following along with he lyric sheet because when you go back to listen without it you still only can decipher some of the words. The accompaniment includes the usual guitars, keyboards, drums and occasional horns. Frank’s dobro skills convey an old timey blues feel.

“Throwback Blues” starts off with a snippet of spoken word from the great Howlin’ Wolf and features rollicking piano by Andrea Reganzin. The pace gets slowed down on “Nora” with its’ lovely lilting electric guitar over acoustic guitar and piano. A nice Canned Heat style boogie pervades “The Outlaw Priest”. Frank rips off some sizzling guitar and harmonica riffs here. The gentle acoustic based “Another Chance” wraps the disc up on a positive note.

I wish I could be more descriptive, but I can’t see this CD being appealing to an English speaking accent. From the quality of the musicianship and the quality production values it’s easy to see that Frank and company’s intent and love for the music is sincere. This is a slippery slope. I don’t want to disrespect the guy, but it is truly a chore to make heads or tails out of the lyrical content here. I don’t know what else to say.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

vin mott cd imageVin Mott – Rouge Hunter

self release

12 songs time-42:55

Lo and behold what emerges from the depths of The New Jersey Delta, but an original bluesman steeped in the authentic blues tradition. Vin Mott and his band bring a blues sound rooted in the past, but that speaks of the present. Vin wrote and arranged all the songs found here. You can hear snippets of guitar and harmonica that sound like they were delivered by the ghosts of blues masters of the past. Vin’s hearty voice combine with his harmonica skills to create something fresh and vital. Guitarist Dean Shot is right on the money when playing regular or slide guitar. Drummer Matt Niedbalski and bass player Steve “Pretty Boy” Kirsty combine to provide a solid foundation. This recording was recorded mainly live off the floor solely with the core band, no outside help.

Vin digs right in with his inspiration that we can all relate to-“Car Troubles Made Me A Good Blues Singer”. Yes he is in possession of an appropriate set of pipes for the job, nicely rough. He’s no slouch in the harmonica department either. the band just chugs along with him. “Give Me Cornbread” keeps the momentum charging along. The title track is a slide guitar infused blues shuffle. Shades of Elmore James here. The harmonica playing shines in this testosterone tale.

“Ice Cold Beer” is a guaranteed concert crowd pleaser. It’s a shuffle with band answer vocals. With it’s ever present wailing harp and old school blues guitar this is the real deal. The guys evoke Slim Harpo’s loping swamp groove on the mainly single entendre “Honey”. “Whistlin’ By The Graveyard” gallops along with slapped upright bass.

“Paterson Is Crumblin'” is a slow lament about the decrepit state of Paterson, New Jersey. The band rips right into the shuffling “I Got The Blues On My Mind”. That Dean Shot can sure unleash some great guitar alongside Vin’s beefy harmonica riffing. An old timey blues vibe is achieved on “Countin’ On Them Chickens”. A fine change of pace is delivered in the R&B flavored “Fire To Your Flame” with its’ pretty harmonica and guitar melodies.

Vin spins a tale of trading his soul to the devil for harmonica skills in “Please Mr. Devil”, a song that features cool slide guitar-harmonica unison playing. On the instrumental “Greaser” Link Ray guitar meets blues harmonica for a fifties style sound.

These guys manage to merge the essence of old timey blues to create something fresh and vital. No blues-rock posers here bull shucking about life on the road. They are putting down the real sound.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

phil manca cd imagePhil Manca – Signs

Tremelo Editions Productions

10 songs time-41:08

Europe seems to have an affinity for hot shot blues rock guitarists and France’s Phil Manca is the latest in a long line. He concentrates entirely on his axe except for background vocals, leaving the lead vocal chores to several others. His style of playing tends toward a more manic approach. His band is limited to the usual suspects-drums, bass and keyboards. Half the songs are band originals.

Josselin “JJ” Jobard takes up the vocal on “Brand New Game” with his capable rocker’s voice wailing over the guitars. The vocal on the title track is courtesy of Lois Landoi. This one is at a slower pace with slide guitar over power chords. “JJ” steps in again on “Colorblind” with acoustic guitar, slide and what sounds like a mandolin contributing to the atmospherics. A cover of The Beatles “Yer Blues” is a festival of guitar noise.

John Mayall’s “Little Girl” continues the guitar feeding frenzy. “S.M.I.L.E.” has Phil sliding his guitar in speed freak fashion. “JJ” takes the vocal on the jumpin’ little ditty “Hot Little Mama”. A change of pace in a lovely ballad “Lay By My Side” with Renaud Hantson on vocal and some beautiful lilting guitar work. To close out the CD they reach back to cover an AC-DC song from Bon Scott’s tenure with the band-“Down Payment Blues” and manage the rock and roll energy and frenetic guitar antics quite well.

A heavy dose of blues rock and rock from this guitar centric band. It doesn’t hurt that a variety of first class singers do a grade “A” job throughout. If blues rock is your thing you just can’t go wrong here. Phil Manca lays down a virtual guitar frenzy as a firm foundation for their songs. This is a blues rock keeper.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

murali coryell cd imageMurali Coryell – Made in Texas

Shake-It-Sugar Records

CD: 12 Songs, 52:00 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Eclectic Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

Contrary to the old saying, sometimes one can judge a book – or CD – by its cover. The jacket design of Murali Coryell’s Made in Texas is colorful and dramatic, with a touch of psychedelics. A river gushes through a gorge, adorned by lush cacti sporting red berries. In the background, palm trees and golden clouds frame a rocky monument. The music inside is as vibrant as the art outside, even eclectic. Fear not, purists: the “E” word only applies to a couple of songs. Coryell counts Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana (with whom he lived) as two of his influences. Their style is clearly showcased on this twelve-track album, mixed with Murali’s unique oeuvre. Well-written original ditties like those reviewed below will get listeners’ hearts pumping and bodies jumping, while covers such as “Woman Don’t Lie” and “I Pity the Fool” provide familiar footholds near the end. On balance, this ensemble album lights the proverbial envelope on fire.

Murali is the son of jazz guitar legend Larry Coryell (a musician featured here) and author/actress Julie Coryell. He’s also the grandson of TV, film and stage actress Carol Bruce. Since fame runs in his bloodline, it’s no surprise that he’s had dinners with Miles Davis, opened for B.B. King, and played with Buddy Guy. He’s also acclaimed by Billboard, CNN, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. His affinity for languages and cultures (English, French, Spanish and Russian) has brought him to places as distant as Australia, Lebanon and the Caribbean.

Accompanying Murali (guitar and vocals) are Ernie Durawa on drums; Augie Meyers on Hammond organ, piano and Tiger organ; Speedy Sparks and Chris Alcaraz on bass; Paul Oscher on harmonica and piano; Peggy Stern on Fender Rhodes and background vocals; Jimmy Shortell on trumpet; Russell Remington on tenor sax; Joe Morales on alto sax; David Hamburger (no joke) on pedal steel guitar; the aforementioned Larry Coryell on guitar and harmony vocals; Harry Wilkinson on drums, and Gary Brown on bass.

The following three songs are the yee-haw-iest on the album, surefire dancefloor hits.

Track 03: “Big Love” – Go back to the ‘50s with this twisty tune, complete with surfer-style Hammond organ by Augie Meyers and great harmony on the chorus/refrain. Reminiscent of Santana at his best, it allows Murali to pay homage to one of his greatest inspirers. Even though it lasts two minutes and fifty-three seconds, that’s enough time to take one’s partner for a spin.

Track 04: “Ain’t it a Shame” – This one’s more of an air-guitar song than a dance number, but it’s also got a classic Texas blues beat and passionate harmonica from Paul Oscher. Check out how he propels his instrument of choice into the stratosphere in terms of pitch and timbre. Yow! Another plus: When Coryell sings lyrics like, “She keeps me satisfied, and you know just what that means,” one can vividly imagine the glint in his eyes and the leer on his face.

Track 10: “Satan’s Woman” – The tempo and instrumentation here are hotter than you-know-where. It starts off with ominous, trembling guitar and Murali’s warning, “Well, well, well, well, I’ll tell you about SATAN’S woma-a-an!” If that’s not a signal to hold on to your hats, blues fans, I don’t know what is.

Made in Texas may be a little too “out there” for some, but Coryell’s true blues is outstanding!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 39 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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 Featured Interview – Teresa James 

teresa james photo 1Despite fronting one of the most talented bands in Los Angeles for better than 20 years, keyboard playing songbird Teresa James has pretty much flown under the radar in the international blues community.

Sure, she was a 2008 Blues Music Awards nominee for contemporary female vocalist of the year. But was also a devoted mom raising two young children at the time, which restricted extensive touring. Now that the kids are grown and on their own, however, she’s definitely on the verge of the common showbiz complaint of becoming an “overnight” success despite a career that’s endured for decades.

If you have any doubt, check the results of the 2019 Grammys. She and her skin-tight group, The Rhythm Tramps – a unit composed of a roster of first-call session players and other top musicians better known for their work with other groups — made it to the finals. Their CD, Here In Babylon, was self-produced with no thought about such an honor, and it was recorded in three days with minimal overdubs.

Teresa and her cohorts deliver a strong taste of blues, soul, honkytonk, Cajun, Southern rock, zydeco and roots with a strong, silky-smooth Texas roadhouse feel – not surprising when you consider that James and most of her bandmates have Houston. The music they produce is guaranteed to keep you tapping your feet or up on the dancefloor.

Blues Blast caught up with Teresa in mid-April a few moments after husband Terry Wilson – who does duties as the band’s bass player, band leader and principal songwriter — had pulled out of their driveway in Santa Clarita, Calif., with the Rhythm Tramps’ gear in tow. He was headed east to prepare for a brief tour of the Lone Star State with Teresa and her dad soon flying out to join him.

“My dad’s the biggest music fan I’ve ever known,” James says proudly. “He wakes up at 95 today with a song in his head,” she says. “He’ll sing me songs – every verse — he learned in grammar school. He knows a million of ‘em, and turned me on to so much great music when I was a kid.”

Retired from a life as a self-employed insurance and real estate broker, he’s an amateur guitar player who hosted jams for family and friends with Teresa’s late mom throughout the singer’s childhood.

“He listened to everything from western music – Marty Robbins, Hank Williams and The Sons Of The Pioneers — to blues, Dixieland and zydeco,” she says, “a lot of Western swing, too — such happy music, and bluesy, too! And he loved Julie London. Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ian and Sylvia, too. We listened to a lot of folk music, too.

“The only thing he didn’t listen to was rock-‘n’-roll. Even today, he’s got a huge iTunes collection, which he plays from the minute he gets up to the minute he goes to bed.”

Teresa took classical piano lessons beginning at age five, which lasted until high school, and her father – who rarely played outside the home — taught her guitar, the only musical training she received before taking voice lessons much later in her professional career.

But Dad was right at her side when she fell in love with performing. The incident came when Teresa was in fourth grade and father and daughter worked together as a duet on six-string and vocals to entertain the class.

“I remember thinking that was the funnest thing ever,” she says. “We were studying Australia at the time, and I sang ‘Waltzing Matilda.’

“That same year, we signed up for the local talent show at the park by our house. From there, we got to go to the big talent show at an auditorium against folks from other parks. It was on a stage with a spotlight and everything, and I thought: ‘Gosh! This is the coolest!’”

She still chuckles when she thinks about her favorite song to perform back then, noting: “My big number was about making moonshine!”

After seeing both Townes Van Zandt – the legendary folk singer who penned “Pancho And Lefty,” a tune made famous by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson — and first-generation blues superstar Lightnin’ Hopkins in concert, she was hooked.

“Lightnin’ was just all by himself with a guitar on stage at the University Of Houston coffeehouse, and I’d grown up listening to his records with my dad,” Teresa says. “His version of ‘Trouble In Mind’ will always be the one that I hear in my head for sure!

“I always sang. When I was going through my mom’s stuff after she passed away, I found an old notebook I used in first grade to practice handwriting. In it, I wrote really, really neat: ‘I love to sing. When I sing, you know I am happy.’

“Luckily, I learned how to do it good enough and sound good enough that people will pay me to do it. That’s the goal, isn’t it? Being able to do something you love to do.”

Folk music must have made the most immediate impression because Teresa’s first group was a folk duo in high school. But her tastes and singing style changed dramatically after she started listening to Aretha Franklin’s gospel records and Billie Holiday’s jazz. Although vastly different in their choice of tunes, their similar vocal delivery immediately caught her ear.

teresa james photo 2“I just love the way they wrapped the musical melody around the phrase,” Teresa says now. “They taught me how to manipulate the song without losing the intent of the heart of the melody. They’d stretch it and move it around, but never lost it.”

It’s a technique that’s not practiced much by today’s younger generation of vocalists, she says. “I miss that now because you don’t hear melody much anymore. Now, it’s more ‘look at me, look what I can do. I can go fast. I can go high. I can go low. I can sound like I have auto-tune on my voice or whatever.’

“To me, though, being a good singer is all about the feeling. It’s singing the song in a way that touches people emotionally.”

Other artists who’ve made a major impression on her include Janis Joplin and Gregg Allman.

“Janis taught me honesty and being in the moment,” James says. “Every time I sing, I try to get to the point where my head’s not engaged. That’s when the most magical moments happen. I love it when I’m singing something and it happens, and I go: ‘Whoa! Where did that come from?’”

And Gregg’s voice, she says, was full of “earthy soul and genuine emotion that I can relate to on a very emotional level.”

Her love for Allman is so great that she paid tribute to him on Here In Babylon with the bittersweet ballad, “The Day The Blues Come To Call.” Co-written with Wilson, it recounts the first time Teresa heard him sing “Whipping Post” and mourns the day he joined brother Duane in the Great Beyond.

With high school behind her, switched to folk-rock then what she terms “some really whacked rock stuff” in college along with solo piano gigs at area hotels before hooking up with a Houston-based Cuban songwriter who was heavily influenced by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

“It was a really interesting mix of styles, three-part harmonies atop of a Cuban beat,” she says. “I always considered myself a ‘blue-collar’ musician. I’ve always made my living that way, which is probably one reason why my career hasn’t gone a lot farther quicker. My thing has always been that if somebody asks ‘do you wanna sing,’ I say ‘yeah — what is it?’”

If you have any doubt, a quick glance at Teresa’s resume will convince you she’s telling the truth.

She’s worked on hundreds of demos for other artists and recorded or toured with Burt Bacharach, Bill Medley, Spencer Davis, Eric Burdon and even Mickey Mouse among many, many others. Her silky smooth voice has been featured in ads for McDonald’s, Michelob and Barbie, and her tunes have appeared in Toy Story 3 and other films as well as TV’s Ellen, The Simpsons and as the theme for Reba.

She’s also served as a vocal coach for a diverse group of entertainers that Andie MacDowell, Tommy Castro and even the Rockettes, the world-famous dance troupe based at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

James’ move toward the blues came, she says, after she encountered Wilson. “I was living in Houston,” Teresa recalls. “It was 1979, and Terry came back through Houston at Christmas time.”

He was traveling from England along with future Grammy-winning drummer/producer/actor Tony Braunagel and headed to Los Angeles, where the duo were planning to set up a new base of operations.

“A mutual friend of ours had to put a band together for his wife’s office Christmas party,” she says. “That’s how we met.”

She and Wilson courted for a couple of years before hooking up for good, long after Terry had made a name for himself as a fixture in the rhythm section of two true superstars: pop and reggae singer Johnny Nash and Eric Burdon, the soulful British vocalist who founded both the ‘60s blues-rock powerhouse, The Animals – best known for their 1964 international hit version of “House Of The Rising Sun”, and Long Beach, Calif.-based funk-rock/fusion band, War.

Four decades later, Wilson still holds down the bass chair in Burton’s band, and Teresa has occasionally joined them on the road to add her voice to the mix.

Terry’s back story is interesting in and of itself.

Like both Nash and Teresa who were born in Houston, Terry has strong roots there despite being born in Arkansas. His background also includes touring with both Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Reed.

He and Braunagel — the percussionist who divides his time between Taj Mahal and Phantom Blues Band and Robert Cray and producing – attended college together and, in the process, formed what would become an enduring, rock-solid rhythm section that rocketed out of Space City and toured the world.

teresa james photo 3They met Nash – a chart-topper with such hits as “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Tears On My Pillow” – after first taking their act to New York City. When Johnny traveled to the UK, they accompanied him, joining forces with another future star, John “Rabbit” Bundrick, who’s toured with The Who as their keyboard player since the early ‘90s.

Nash returned to the States, but his bandmates remained behind. Wilson and Braunagel quickly hooked up with Paul Kossoff – former lead guitarist of proto-heavy metal band Free — to form Back Street Crawler, a hard-hitting blues-rock ensemble.

Kossoff succumbed to a drug-induced heart attack in 1976 aboard a flight from Los Angeles to New York shortly before Back Street Crawler was scheduled to release their second LP, and the unit continued without him, issuing two more records before disbanding in 1978.

Longing to get back into their Texas blues roots despite still being based in London, Wilson and Braunagel formed what would become the first iteration of what would become Teresa’s Rhythm Tramps, rounding out their sound by enlisting Bundrick, who’s also spent time with British guitar legend Gary Moore, Bob Marley and Sandy Denny.

Teresa finally left the Lone Star State behind to join Wilson in 1982, realizing she’d done just about everything she could in Houston’s music world. But by her own admission, she still wasn’t a blues singer.

“I was still in my 20s,” she says. “I was still like chasin’ the big record deal when I got here. Whatever type of music was popular, that’s was what I was doing. We did sorta rock-pop kinda stuff. But finally it distilled into: ‘Wait a minute! Do I wanna play this music the rest of my life? No!’

“We gradually started backing up into our roots, and I couldn’t be happier. My band’s been together for more than 20 years now, and it works together like a railroad train going down the tracks.”

It’s no wonder when you take a look at its lineup.

Guitarist Billy Watts has spent time with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne and drummer Herman Matthews – one of three revolving percussionists – tours with Tower Of Power after time with Tom Jones and Kenny Loggins. The horn section – Lee Thornburg and Paulie Cerra – was on the road with Joe Bonamassa when this interview took place and is frequently subbed by Daryl Leonard and Joe Sublett when they’re not gigging with Taj and/or Phantom.

Alumni and rotating members include Johnny Lee Schell, Rob McNelley and Austin legend Gurf Morlix on guitars, Mike Finnigan, Kevin McKendree and Rabbit on keys, and Braunagel and Jay Bellarose on drums, among many others.

“You gotta go where the money is,” Teresa says stoically. “Livin’ in L.A., expenses are so-o-o high and there’s so much that you can do to make money. But the big money is still in touring.

“If you wanna have the best players in a band like mine, you gotta have a bench that you can call on and go with the flow when some of them aren’t available. I totally get it. No hard feelings.

“I’m so-o-o lucky. The guys I get to work with are all great.”

Since marrying Wilson in 1987, family’s always come first.

“We chose not to tour much when our kids were small,” Teresa says. “Economically, we weren’t at the level where we could afford someone to take care of them on the road.

“And I never brought ‘em along when we’re playin’ in the park or at a festival around town because I knew I’d be up on the stage behind my keyboard and wondering where they were and what they were up to in the crowd.”

Despite the impact on their career, neither Teresa nor Terry have any regrets.

“I’m so-o-o happy we did that with our kids. They’re both smart and happy,” she says. “We have a great relationship. Unfortunately, I’ve seen other musicians that have kids that aren’t as lucky.”

teresa james photo 4Both children — daughter Lucy and son Jesse – are now deeply intermeshed with The Band Of Heathens, one of the top roots groups in the world. Lucy, who’s married to Heathens’ drummer, Richard Millsap, studied dance at a conservatory in New York with plans to turn pro. Jesse, a multi-instrumentalist who studied musical composition, has served as the band’s bass player since being recruited to replace his predecessor, John Chipman, who decided he no longer wanted to tour.

“We were hoping that at least one of our kids would have a steady paycheck for when we go older,” Teresa jokes, “but…”

Terry’s often on the road with Burdon during the summer, but you can often find them at The Write Off in Woodland Hills, Calif., where they have a Wednesday night residency, and other locations when he’s in town.

Even when he’s not around, however, Teresa’s plenty busy. Her keyboard skills are on display at two different churches every Sunday, and she’s also been teaching at Los Angeles College Of Music, where she conducts a class in vocal improvisation.

“I think it made me a better singer because, honestly, my music schooling was to listen to every singer,” she says. “If anybody had something that I thought was different, then I would go home, buy the record and try to imitate ‘em regardless of what style they were.

“I always tend to go to the blue note and the back phrase, and I look for the soul in every song. The beauty of the blues is that the form is so basic, it leaves it wide open for the performer to insert their own personality and own heart.

“I think the blues is more of a state-of-mind, more of a feeling, than anything else.

“I love to ad lib,” she says. “That’s often a challenge for my students, though, because it’s hard for many of them to get away from the melody – to use counter-rhythms, sing high, sing low, sing one long note, pick some words out. It’s second nature to me now, but it’s what makes blues the blues. It’s fluid, and the music is alive and has a life of its own.

“If you can’t figure out what to do, what to say…give your guitarist a solo!”

James also was enlisted to branch out more and conduct an online course on the history of American music, which created another challenge. “Distilling it all down to ten weekly lessons was really hard,” she says, partially caused by the fact that the music industry has become so compartmentalized in recent decades.

Today, she believes, folks are boxed in to one form of music or another at the expense of everything else instead of realizing by studying the past that American tastes truly are more of a blend of different styles.

“To me, music is just music,” she says. “That’s why I tend to go wherever the song needs and give the song what it wants to be the best. If you sell the song then you’re really selling yourself.

“Take a song like ‘I’m Sitting On Top Of The World’ – (written in the late ‘20s by members of the Mississippi Sheiks and first recorded in 1930) — for example. You can hear where Bill Monroe got his version of it for bluegrass. And Howlin’ Wolf said when he did it: ‘I was tryin’ to imitate Jimmie Rogers’ yodeling, and I couldn’t yodel. So that’s how I came up with my howl.’

“All of our music comes from the very same root. That’s why I don’t understand why some people will go: ‘Oh, I hate that kind of music!’”

She also cites a statement made by Houston-born jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum when she was in the studio recording songs for one of his albums. “He always used to say – and I kinda agree – that there’s only two kinds of music: the kind you like and the kind you don’t.

“I’m thrilled when people relate to mine — that something I love to do touches people the way it does. But these days, it seems that there’s so little kindness and compassion in the world, and music should be the river we’re all swimming in.

“But folks shouldn’t forget the importance of being kind to each other.”

Be kind to yourself, too, by checking out Teresa and The Rhythm Tramps. They’re on the road with shows on the East Coast surrounding their appearance at the Heritage Music Bluesfest in Wheeling, WV, this summer, and they’re promising to ramp up their touring schedule in the year ahead.

And be sure to look for a new, live CD in the immediate future. Four of their recent albums were tabbed with honors from DownBeat magazine in addition to their Grammy nomination, and two of them also took home top prizes in the Independent Music Awards.

Recorded over four nights in a packed Los Angeles-area nightclub, the new disc will feature a lineup that includes many of musicians mentioned in this story in different configurations – like always: based on their availability the night they performed.

Visit Teresa’s website at:

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., 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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The Blues Society of Western New York – Buffalo, NY

The Blues Society of Western New York in conjunction with Music Is Art presents the Nurs’n Blues Music Fest, Saturday, May 25 from 3pm to 10pm at The Cove, 4701 Transit Rd., in Depew, NY. $20. donation in advance, $25. (door). Info: . Proceeds benefit Nurs’n Blues Therapy Program, that uses Blues Music Therapy for those struggling with chemical dependency. Two stages with continuous music all day long, headlined by Grammy nominee, blues guitar great, Kenny Neal. Also performing: Robert “Freightrain” Parker; Jeremy Keyes Band; Grace Stumberg and Grace Lougen; Hanna PK; 12 Pack Jack McArdle; Sheila Connors; and the Patti Parks Band (Parks is the creator of the Nurs’n Blues Music Fest). Now in its fourth year, the program has served over one-thousand clients and families.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Shows start at 7 pm, and are open to the public. Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. June 4 – Ben Levin (piano) w/ Aron Levin, Marty Binder, and Chris Bernhardt – Kankakee Valley Boat Club, July 30 – Frank Bang – Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmens’ Club, August 3 – The Nouveaux Honkies – Inside Out – Gilman IL, August 15 – Albert Castiglia – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL. More Info at:

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society is pleased to announce that our June Blues Bash will feature Chris O’Leary Band. Their 5th CD “7 minutes Late” is on the American Showplace Label. Now on tour to support the release of the new album. The show will be held Sunday, June 2nd, at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. Admission is free for members with valid cards and $5 to everyone else. A limited number of reserved seats/tables will be available online through the website, for $10 each. Doors at 7:00; music at 8:00. It will be a great evening of music!

We continue to collect non-perishable food and household items for our charity partner, Loaves and Fishes. It’s our goal to collect one ton of donations this year to help stamp out hunger in Charlotte. Cash donations are also welcome. 1 Can? I Can! More info at

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Monthly shows on the second Saturday of each month at Hope and Anchor English Pub on N 2nd St in Loves Park, IL. 5/11/19 Corey Dennison Band. All shows 8 PM to 11:30 PM.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances and other shows held at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 7:00pm to 11:00pm. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request. May 8 – Paul Bonn & The Bluesmen 6:00 PM, May 13 – The Drifter Kings, May 20 – Chris Antonik, May 22 – Brother Jefferson Trio 6:00 PM, May 27 – J.P. Soars & the Red Hots, June 3 – Chris Ruest – Eve Monsees & Mike Buck, June 10 – Guitar Shorty, June 12 – OddsLane CD Release Party 6:00 PM, June 17 – The Bridgett Kelly Band, June 24 – The 44’s.

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