Natasha James scored a hit on national roots-music radio charts with "The Restless Kind" from her 2007 album Bad Judgements, but "restless" is in her past. The Sonoma-based singer-songwriter insists that her newly released Tequila Time is "a playful record, that has some deep lyrics, but the overall tone is upbeat." When I tell her I still hear bits of yearning in the new album's spirit of fun, she chuckles and says, "If you're hearing that on Tequila Time, then I'm curious if there's a little more restlessness left in me than I thought!"
Playful, upbeat ease is indeed what colors Tequila Time, as James' confident band nails roots styles ranging from the old-time barroom shuffle of "Stuck in Atlanta" to the salsa/Tex-Mex mix of "Cheetah on the Run" to the country blues groove of "Ain't Done Nothin' Wrong." Gone are the horns that gave Bad Judgements a jazzy flavor, but Tequila Time ups the rock ante. "Straight to Hell" is a big, righteous ballad worthy of early '70s Rolling Stones, while "Get Out of My Way" is sassy Southern rock reminiscent of the Allman Brothers.
Settled life trumps wanderlust on the final cut "Modern Life," as James names common hectic details like internet games and soccer uniforms yet finds peace with the "bigger universals" she says "we all deal with in our own way." James' own life has taken her all over California, Mexico and Europe before she finally landed in New York in the early '80s to pursue a songwriting career. When two kids came along, Sonoma County gave her a good spot to drop anchor: gorgeous landscapes, musical freedom, intelligent culture and community. She quit music for 15 years while working as an investment agent, but believers in the music industry coaxed her back, and her music focus is now nonstop. After a series of California gigs, she tours Texas and the East Coast, where radio support is strong, and shows no sign of letting up. "I just don't have the off button," she laughs.
Natasha James will be busy promoting Tequila Time on Thursday, April 30, starting with a performance and CD signing at Backdoor Disc and Tape (7665 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati. 5pm. 707.795.9597). Her CD release party begins at 8pm at the Last Day Saloon (120 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. $15. 707.545.5876).