In three weeks, Texas-born singer Teresa James and her band The Rhythm Tramps return to Santa Barbara for a gig at the Carrillo Recreation Center, and are bringing some new, acclaimed music with them. For the band’s first ever performance for the nonprofit Santa Barbara Blues Society, on September 14 the band will perform a set full of their most popular songs, mixed in with cuts from its tenth studio album “Here in Babylon.”
Released last year, the album received a Grammy nomination as well as nominations from the Blues Foundation and Independent Blues Awards, according to a press release.
Rather than “straight blues,” Ms. James and her band perform what she called “Texas Roadhouse” music, a mix of blues, rock, and soul, the last of which is particularly apparent on the “Here in Babylon” songs.
“This CD in particular leans more toward the soul side of blues,” she said.
With a vocal style influenced by singers like Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and Janis Joplin, Ms. James interprets songs written by her husband, Rhythm Tramps bassist and arranger Terry Wilson. Likening the band’s sound to artists such as Delbert McClinton, ZZ Top, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, both the husband and wife said their music is meant for a dancing audience. While some slower blues songs pop up in the band’s live repertoire, others are faster and driven by a “Bo Diddley beat,” like Ms. James’ favorite “Here in Babylon” track “Find Me a Bar.” According to the signer, the song is about forgetting about the troubles one is constantly bombarded with these days through the media.
“There’s so much politics on the TV, let’s just go find some blues and forget about it,” she said of its meaning.
Of the 12 songs on the new album, Mr. Wilson said his favorite is “The Day the Blues Came to Call,” as he particularly enjoyed the experience of recording it. Mr. Wilson wrote the song as a tribute to southern rock singer-songwriter Gregg Allman following his death.
Because her band’s performance is all about the music with little production value, Ms. James said the group can adapt its show for whatever crowd it happens to come across. According to Mr. Wilson, the band enters a show with a setlist centered around the band’s biggest hits and numbers that are “the most fun” in a live setting. This often works best if the audience is one of the band’s usual, dancing crowds.
However, in the event that the audience is more intent on listening to the music, the band will throw in more slow, contemplative numbers.
“You kind of have to read the crowd,” Ms. James said.
Though she’s happy just to get up in front of an audience and sing, Ms. James particularly enjoys watching her fans hit the dance floor.
“I like watching people dance. It just adds to the energy of the whole evening,” she said.
According to the release, Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps’ September 14 performance will have a dance floor. Ms. James will take the stage at 8 p.m. following an opening acoustic set from Paull E. Rubin at 7:15 p.m. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at the door or online. General admission is $30 and VIP admission is $40, with discounts available for high school and college students. Free barbecue, beer, and wine will be offered while they last.
The Carrillo Recreation Center is located at 100 E. Carrillo St.