Texas-born, Canyon Country-based blues singer-keyboardist Teresa James and her band The Rhythm Tramps have earned their first Grammy nomination in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category for their 10th and latest album, “Here in Babylon.”
Released in May, “Here in Babylon” features James on lead vocals and piano, backed by Rhythm Tramps Terry Wilson (bass), Billy Watts (guitar) and Jay Bellarose (drums), with guest appearances by Mike Finnigan (Hammond B-3), Darrell Leonard (trumpet; horn arrangements) and Joe Sublett (sax). Chief songwriter Wilson produced the sessions at Canyon Country’s Mystic Mountain Studios.
“We cut all the tracks live in three days of recording and then added horns and B-3 later on just a few tracks,” James said on her website. “We had a great time recording.”
“I feel like we have moved into a bit of a different mood with these tunes – a little more raw, leaning a little more into a soul feel on some of them and definitely a more bluesy attitude overall,” she said.
“What a wonderful way to wake up this morning! It is such an honor to be nominated for a Grammy and to be included with such talented people,” James said in a Facebook post on Friday morning.
“Thank you SO much to all the friends and folks who have offered their congratulations today – it really means a lot,” she wrote. “I know that I should be a little cooler about it, but this is really huge for us after so many years in the business. So… WOW WOW WOW!!!! Thank you!”
The Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy is awarded to an album “containing at least 51 percent playing time of new vocal or instrumental contemporary blues recordings,” according to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, or NARAS, whose members vote to nominate artists and recordings and determine the final award winners.
Also nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album are “Please Don’t Be Dead” by Fantastic Negrito; “Cry No More” by Danielle Nicole; “Out of the Blues” by Boz Scaggs; and the eponymous album by Victor Wainwright and The Train.
James, originally from Houston, and the Rhythm Tramps are regular performers in the Valencia Jazz & Blues concerts outside the Hyatt Valencia on summer Friday nights. They’re also alums of SCVTV’s “House Blend” music and interview program in a special edition airing in November 2014.
Teresa James and Terry Wilson with Stephen K. Peeples on the set of “House Blend,” Oct. 18, 2014.
James’ Rhythm Tramps have a colorful history dating back to the 1970s, when Wilson and drummer Tony Braunagle formed the earliest iteration of the group. Today’s lineup includes top LA-based touring and session players who have worked with Jimmy Reed, Eric Burdon, Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Warnes, Was Not Was, Johnny Nash and many others.
James and the Tramps have been gigging throughout Southern California and at blues festivals and clubs throughout the U.S. and Europe for many years. The band has also been a favorite on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Blues Cruise for more than a dozen years.
She has shared stages with legendary artists such as Levon Helm, Delbert McClinton, Eric Burdon, Marcia Ball, Tommy Castro, Big Al Anderson, Kirk Whalum and many others. Her voice is featured on albums by Randy Newman, Eric Burdon, Tommy Castro, Bill Medley, and Walter Trout, among others.
Her 2008 album “The Bottom Line” earned her a nomination from the Blues Foundation for Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year and her 2010 album “You Know You Love It” was a finalist for an Independent Music Award.
James has also sung for television and movie soundtracks; she and her band were featured in the Disney movie and soundtrack for “Holes” in 2003.
The 61st Grammy Awards will be telecast Feb. 10 on CBS.