Teresa James – With A Little Help From My Friends | Album Review

Teresa James – With a Little Help from My Friends

Blue Heart Records – 2022


10 tracks – 37 minutes

Houston, Texas born Teresa James started playing piano at age 5, added guitar at age 8, and has never stopped playing music since then. She studied classical music through her sophomore year in high school. Now located in Los Angeles, Teresa has released several previous albums both as a solo lead and with her band The Rhythm Tramps with the first, The Whole Enchilada, dating back to 1998. Here she foregoes the Tramps to perform with friends. The Tramps are led by her husband Terry Wilson, who co-produced this album and provides the guitar, bass and backing vocals. They are joined by new friend Kevin McKendree, who also was a co-producer of this album and provides keyboards and guitar. Kevin also performed with Teresa on her previous album Rose Colored Glasses.  Tramps’ drummer Richard Millsap completes the regular lineup for the album.

Teresa and her band have performed with most of today’s major blues artists and have toured internationally. She and the band have been recipients of many awards over the years, and she was nominated for a Blues Music Award in 2008 for “Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year” and the band received a Grammy nomination for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” in 2019 for Here in Babylon.

Terea rightfully describes her vocals as “Texas-bred sass”. She moves easily from Texas styled blues to Memphis Soul, and a bit of New Orleans jazz and probably all points in-between.

As can immediately be inferred from the title, this is an album of Beatles covers and could just as easily have been called Meet The Beatles.  While the songs are indelibly The Beatles, Teresa’s Texas-styled vocals and a translation towards the blues makes the songs her own.

McKendree’s barrelhouse piano and Wilson’s guitar accents “Ticket to Ride” with Nicki Bluhm providing backing vocals. The early treatment of the song follows the Beatles songbook but gives way at the end to a full blues run that provides a preamble for the rest of the album.

“Taxman” is given a 60’s era psychedelic turn with ringing guitars sliding through Teresa’s smooth vocals. “Don’t Let Me Down” backed by slide guitar and some funky keyboard becomes a strong R&B song.  “Happy Just to Dance with You” is propelled into Memphis soul territory with Lucy Wilson providing backing vocals.

Yates McKendree, Kevin’s son, adds guitar as Teresa makes “Oh Darlin’ “a whiskey-soaked blues song. Philly soul permeates her version of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” which was an acoustic number when performed by The Beatles but here is given a fuller arrangement.  “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” gets a Muscles Shoal touch with Terry Wilson throwing in a tasty guitar solo.

“You Won’t See Me”, written by Paul McCartney in 1965, gets a polished Motown sound amid some nice slide guitar and moving piano in its new incarnation. 1964’s “No Reply” adds some R&B and gospel to the sound.

George Harrison’s “Think for Yourself” from 1965’s Rubber Soul was one of George’s philosophical songs that likely was pointed to the other members of The Beatles or could be just a statement to the listeners. In Teresa’s hands the song becomes a Texas shuffle with a strong piano lead and probably a general admonishment to a lover.

It is hard to believe that many of these songs are now nearly 60 years old. Yes, many of you will certainly recall the formation of these songs and many will have learned of them in passing through the generations. While the songs are clearly those of The Beatles, Teresa brings a freshness and warmth to her versions of the songs. Her affection for the songs is clear. Teresa’s love of the songs is clearly genuine and provides an album well-worth your listen if you ever loved the music of The Beatles or if you simply want to hear the joy Teresa brings to her music.

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