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September 2023

Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps
Rose-Colored Glasses, Vol. 2
Blue Heart Records

Teresa James

Rose-Colored Glasses, Vol. 1 by Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps was one of my favorite albums of the 2021 blues season, earning a rave review by me in the September 2021 Blues Bytes issue. I said in the final paragraph that I couldn't wait for Volume 2, figuring that it would follow soon after.

Ms. James fooled us by inserting another original release in early 2023, paying tribute to the music of The Beatles with the album With A Little Help From My Friends. In my review of that very fine disc, I proclaimed that I was very pleased with that album but that I was still hoping for Rose-Colored Glasses, Vol. 2 before long.

The wait is over!

Volume 2 has arrived, and it's just as much fun as Volume 1, with a dozen original compositions written by James and her musical partner Terry Wilson, showing their shared vision of life through those rose-colored glasses. The backing band, a revolving cast of notable musicians, is tight but never overriding Ms. James' sweet and sincere vocals on this wonderful set of blues, soul, and R&B. So many different sounds, but every cut blends well with the others.

One facet of Volume 1 that I liked so much was the horn backing by Darrell Leonard (brass) and Paulie Cerra (six and woodwinds), and, fortunately, they are back for Volume 2. (If I ever see Teresa on the road, I certainly hope that there's room for Darrell and Paulie on the bus!).

 James sings about what she'll do to keep that man happy on the mid-tempo horn-driven number, "I'd Do It For You," while Billy Watts kicks in the lead guitar stuff, before coming in with the slow, soulful blues, "Better Angels," featuring the always great Kevin McKendree on piano. On "Lean On Love," James sings about that sorrowful woman who just doesn't have much luck in love despite how hard she tries.

The slow, soul ballad, "The Idea Of You" finds James packing more power into her vocals as she keeps thinking about that lost love. Plenty of lyrics that get her point across about what she lost, and tasteful piano accompaniment from McKendree. We also get a nice effect from strings in the background. Her voice carries the pleasant, slower shuffle, with Wilson laying down good guitar work before Cerra comes in for a sexy sax solo.

Leonard opens "I Don't Need Another Reason" with a brassy, soulful blast of horns, as James tells us that she's a one-man woman who's been around the world but she keeps coming back to that man. He's just the reason she doesn't need to fall in love with anyone else. It's a fun and happy tune that will leave a smile on your face. "Flip Flop" has a real island beat that gives a feeling of a warm ocean breeze gently blowing in from a moonlit sea. Leonard again provides another big wall of horns while James allows her voice to soar through the octaves.

We get minimal instrumental accompaniment on the slow, soulful "The Heart Wants What It Wants," with drums from Jay Bellerose and bass, guitar and keyboards from Wilson all mixed together in support of James' sultry vocals. One of the best cuts here. Harmonica dude Matt Lomeo joins the band for the mid-tempo "Ain't Nothing For Certain," as James encourages all of us to never give up and never give in even though there's no justice in the world and there's no sure thing.

James pours out the pain in her heart on "Just Don't Thnk About It," which is a little funky and a little New Orleans, with her voice gaining strength as the song proceeds and the horns match her intensity. Bennett Salvay steps in on the Hammond B-3 on "Brand New Flame," as James is looking for someone new but with the caveat that she's not a one-night stand.

The final song on this exquisite album is the soulful, bluesy "Second Chance," with the force in James' voice being matched by the accompanying instruments, especially the horn section. A very fine ending to this tasty batch of a dozen well-written and well-executed songs.

Rose-Colored Glasses, Vol. 2 was worth the two-year wait. Undoubtedly, one of the best of the year. My only question now is will there be a Vol.3, and how soon can we expect it? In the meantime, I'll be satisfied with the two volumes that are already getting regular spins on my hard drive and on my phone app, but I sure wouldn't mind another album as good as the first two.

--- Bill Mitchell


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