Blues Bytes

Surprise

January 2023

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Teresa James
With A Little Help F
rom Her Friends
Blue Heart Records

Teresa James

I got excited when I heard that Teresa James had a new album coming out. I've been eagerly awaiting the follow-up to her outstanding 2021 release Rose-Colored Glasses, Vol. 1. At long last, we were finally going to get Volume 2. Hallelujah!

Imagine my disappointment when realizing that the new release from Ms. James was NOT the long-awaited Volume 2, but instead a collection of covers of Beatles songs. I was skeptical about that concept, but went into it with an open mind.

My disappointment was not warranted, because With A Little Help From Her Friends (Blue Heart Records) is simply outstanding. It's now the front-runner for 2023 album of the year. What a pleasant surprise!

The Beatles started out as a blues band, so their material is easily adaptable back into a blues and soul format. James, with the help of co-producers Terry Wilson and Kevin McKendree, has done just that. Every cut on With A Little Help From Her Friends is a well-crafted masterpiece. You'll recognize each song as a Beatles classic, but done in James' own style.

Opening the album is "Ticket To Ride," turned into a blues shuffle with James' powerful voice and McKendree's classy piano work. The pace on "Taxman" slows from the original, sounding more like a snaky, kind of psychedelic slow blues, highlighted by Wilson's solid guitar playing. "Don't Let Me Down" becomes a soulful ballad with pleading vocals from James.

"Happy Just To Dance With You," the original coming from the Hard Day's Night album, is a pleasant urban soulful blues given an extra oomph from Wilson's great guitar solo. My absolute favorite on the album is the version of "Oh Darlin'," transformed into a slow blues with pleading vocals from James and incendiary guitar from guest Yates McKendree. Play it over and over. "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" was done as an acoustic number by the Beatles, but here it gets a heavy dose of soul.

The tempo increases with "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey." It's a foot-tapping, body-shaking, soulful rockin' blues. Wilson just absolutely kills it on slide guitar on "You Won't See Me," a mid-tempo shuffle that also gives McKendree plenty of time to solo on the piano. "No Reply" becomes a mid-tempo soulful number with gospel overtones, especially with James providing her own multi-voice harmony backing vocals.

Wrapping up this 10-song gem is the slow blues shuffle, "Think For Yourself," with James showing impressive range with her vocals while Wilson provides tasteful guitar backing. It's a great ending to a fabulous concept that works much better than expected. As an extra bonus, the artwork on the album booklet has an appropriate psychedelic 1960's feel.

I'm still hoping that Rose-Colored Glasses, Vol. 2 will see the light of day before long, but I can be patient because With A Little Help From Her Friends gives me my fix of Teresa James that I need to hold me over.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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