In the News

Bluegrass Today Article 5:18:15

 

Hey folks, in case you didn’t notice Richard Thompson of Bluegrass Today ran an article about my new album, Rhyme & Season, on May 18th. This guy has a great way with words and turned just a few comments from me into a beautiful, well-written article that I hope you enjoy reading it!

 

Buffalo Creek Flood Remembered

I was contacted by a reporter from West Virgina for permission to use I song I wrote back in 2001 about the Buffalo Creek Flood on their show “Inside Appalachia” which will air this Sunday at 7 AM and 6 PM (also available as a downloadable podcast). Of course I was more than happy to have them use the song and I hope that many of you will have an opportunity to listen in to the program or download it from their website. It just reminded me once again of the power of music in our world. As a songwriter, I look for events and issues that really speak to my heart for inspiration. Sometimes the songs that result surprise me. They seem to take me over as they struggle to life. As I work on new material for my next album, it’s good to be reminded that the songs I’ve written in the past are still being used to tell the story and raise awareness years later. By the way, “Buffalo Creek Flood” is available on the Barnstormin’ album that can be downloaded for free from NoiseTrade. Enjoy!

My Hat’s in the Ring!

I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring and seek nomination for the IBMA Board of Directors – Artists & Composers Category. I’m a lifetime member of this fine organization and, at this time in my life, I feel compelled to give something back to the community of bluegrass in any way I can. I hope you will take a moment and send an email to suggestions@ibma.org nominating me for the Artists & Composers Category.

I am dedicated to advancing the cause of bluegrass internationally as well as intergenerationally, and will be a voice of reason for all IBMA members, from the fledgling picker to the virtuoso fiddler. I promise transparency on behalf of the IBMA Board of Directors and will use my communication skills to keep all IBMA members informed of what’s going on within our association.

Nominate James

It’s Here! The Music Video Is Finally Here!!!!

Video Cover blueIt has long been a dream of mine to create a music video featuring the song “Almost Hear the Blues.” Stonewall Jackson wrote this song and when he sang it to me over the telephone it conjured up such vivid pictures in my head that I knew one day, when I had the chance to make a music video, this would be the song for it.

I’ve been saying that the bluegrass industry needs to kick it up a notch and start making more music videos as that’s what appeals to the visually-stimulated generation of today. So I decided to put my money where my mouth is and this is the result. I worked with a talented filmmaker from the west coast, Rick Bowman of Backyard Green Films, and thankfully we were able to pull this together without breaking the bank.

Here’s a little background about the video itself.  As we kicked around ideas, we decided to tell the story of a man who sought perfection in love and ended up alone. We used shots of remembered festivals and dancing to this same song with his sweetheart as kids to show happier times and then cut to images that brought to mind the full impact of his loneliness. It isn’t until she’s actually gone that he’s able to let go of the idea of the perfect woman and go after her.

“Almost Hear the Blues” is included on my 8th CD, “One Foot in the Honky Tonk” which was released in 2011. The song charted nationally and the CD was featured on two Top Ten CDs of 2011 lists. To read more about it, just click on the CD title. I sure hope you like our little video!

Best Present Ever!!!

Imagine my surprise when I was surfing around the Bluegrass Today website catching up on the news and I stumbled across an article posted on January 4, 2014 by Richard Thompson. Richard was interviewing Donald Teplyske (a freelance roots and bluegrass music writer with reviews appearing regularly at The Lonesome Road Review and Country Standard Time, which also hosts Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, a roots music blog with additional reviews online). When asked “What is your favorite bluegrass project of all time and why?” Donald chose my album “Troubled Times.” You could have knocked me over with a feather!

Here’s what he had to say, “Just one? If I could listen to only one album I guess I would choose James Reams & the Barnstormers Troubled Times for several reasons. First, and most importantly, I think it is a terrific album – it has drive, something I always appreciate. Superb songs. It was the first album of James’ I encountered, and as such, is memorable as he has become a great long distance bluegrass friend. Secondly, until her death, I regularly corresponded with James’ partner Tina Aridas, and I truly appreciated her critical, insightful viewpoints on music and, most importantly for me, writing. Whenever I listen to Troubled Times, I can’t help but recall our many and varied e-mails on all matter of topics. Thirdly, the songs that James and Tina wrote for this album – The Hills of My County and Eye of the Storm, as well as James’ title track – are some of my favorites – while I’ve never lived the things they write about, I can feel those experiences through their songs. Finally, the album contains a Robby Fulks song (Cold Statesville Ground) which is just too cool.” 

It’s such a nice feeling to know that people like what you do and to have Donald choose one of my albums as his all time favorite was truly an honor. Since my birthday is coming up on 1/10; I’m considering this comment as my best birthday present ever!

On the Cover of a Magazine!

AmericanaRhythmCover

Click to read article

Wow! What a great looking bunch!!! Check out the information-packed article written by Greg Tutwiler on pages 12-13. This article was written to help commemorate my 20th anniversary as a bandleader. I’ll try not to let it go to my head!

And, by the way, the rest of the articles are quite good too. I’m sure you will enjoy the entire edition and encourage you to support their efforts to promote our music by subscribing at www.americanarhythm.com.

Remembering Tina – IBMM Presentation

 

James Reams Partner Tina Aridas

Tina Aridas

I can’t say it was love at first sight, more like love at first word between my partner of 15 years, Tina Aridas, and bluegrass. When she passed away from cancer in early 2011, it sent shockwaves through the bluegrass community; even Bluegrass Today carried an article.

Gabrielle Gray, Director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM) in Owensboro, KY came to her memorial service and delivered part of the eulogy. She noted that one of Tina’s amazing talents was her ability to reach people from different parts of the country and even the world, connecting them through music and her written words. And this February, a special plaque that recognizes Tina’s work and effort in promoting and preserving bluegrass as a fine slice of the American music pie will be presented to the IBMM.

Her love of the written word gave her a deeper appreciation for the story songs and folk poetry that abound in bluegrass and oldtime music. The wordplay and interchange of ideas spurred her to start writing lyrics for songs and to encourage me to write original material. We started on a journey of collaboration with these new songs that brought real excitement as we contributed to the tradition that we loved.

Tina’s introduction to bluegrass and oldtime music was through the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour television program. She would wait anxiously to see John Hartford play his banjo with Glen Campbell. And she shared this love of music with her brother as they were growing up.

When I first met Tina, we had a lot of “dates” at the Good Coffeehouse Music Parlor (GCMP) in Brooklyn. I booked shows and did sound so you would find me most Fridays crawling around the floor at GCMP. Tina and I would share that time together as we got to know each other. We were there so much that I even overheard a child commenting to his parents as they walked by, “Look Mommy, that’s James and Tina’s house.”

I was already playing at the GCMP, but Tina took it up a notch.  She started doing press releases and sending emails that helped develop a loyal following for bluegrass music in the Brooklyn area and beyond. Since we already had our foot in the door at GCMP, we were able to bring in some great acts like The Sullivan Family, the amazing flat pick genius of David Greer, and White Mountain Bluegrass to name a few. Over the course of 20 years, this venue became the  “go to” place for roots music in NYC featuring a virtual Who’s Who of music performers.

As guests showed up at our real house to play music or record, Tina developed a true passion for the genre…some might say she was a bit obsessed with bluegrass! Tom Paley teamed up with Bill Christophersen and me as the Mysterious Redbirds to release a recording in 1998 on a national record label thanks to her efforts.  During the years that followed Tracy Schwarz & Ginny Hawker, Alan Jabbour, John Cohen, Walter Hensley, Jon Glick, David Grier, Enoch and Marge Sullivan, Alice Gerrard, John Herald and many others came to call and play.

I remember the turning point in my career. On the way home from a gig, the van broke down. While stranded in Massachusetts, Tina and I went out for a walk and passed this church. On the sign outside the topic for the sermon on Sunday was posted. All lit up at night that sign from God said “Build a Better Barn.” She looked at me and said, “That’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to build a better band.” From that point on we concentrated on creating a regional band that would have a national reputation. With the release of our 2011 CD, One Foot in the Honky Tonk, we did just that — making top ten lists and having a single that charted nationally.

As our relationship grew closer, she became further immersed in the history of bluegrass. A voracious reader, she soaked up stories of the Carter family, Bill Monroe, and Stanley Brothers like a sponge and, in the process, collected quite a library of books and literature on the subject, many have been donated to the IBMM library. As a masterful writer, she chronicled this knowledge; writing liner notes, newspaper articles, comments on websites, any place she could get a word in edgewise!

She became a real voice for the Northeast and its contribution to bluegrass music; her name is still recognized by every major writer in the genre. Her writing about Walter Hensley in the liner notes for our CD “James Reams, Walter Hensley, and the Barons of Bluegrass” was described as history-making by one reviewer and appeared on a Washington DC bluegrass website as well as being included in the book “True Vine” by Mike Seeger. I was especially touched when I received a copy of Mike Seeger’s book and read so many quotes credited to Tina.

Along the way she encouraged me to fulfill a dream of capturing some of the remaining pioneers of bluegrass on film. She was the instigator of behind-the-scenes interviews with such legends as Jimmy Martin, Kenny Baker, and Bobby Osborne. Then she helped put together the first preview of the film that was included with our CD “Troubled Times” in 2005. The IBMA even used this preview of the film as part of their Bluegrass in the Schools curriculum a few years ago. This program encourages teachers nationwide (elementary through university levels) to become more “bluegrass aware.” I’m happy to say that in 2013, the fruit of her labors will be realized with the release of the DVD documentary, “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass Music” which will coincide with James Reams & The Barnstormers 20th Anniversary Coast-to-Coast Celebration tour.

Tina was instrumental in creating a real community of bluegrass and traditional music. She helped co-found the NY Bluegrass-Oldtime Discussion Group on Yahoo that allowed people to communicate their love of roots music. After the twin towers fell WKCR, a local radio station that announced bluegrass and oldtime music events, stopped for a while because their broadcasting antenna was on top of one of the towers. So the NY Bluegrass-Oldtime discussion group became even more active and helped bluegrass music continue and grow in the City during WKCR’s absence. When anyone in the industry needed help promoting a show in NYC, Tina was usually called in. Ken Irwin of Rounder Records and Del McCoury, to name a couple, used her amazing talent for communicating.

Tina and James at Capital Records

Tina and James at Capital Theater

And she was the driving force behind James Reams & The Barnstormers, relentlessly pursuing record label deals and prestigious venues to showcase our talents. I often told her that I felt like a grasshopper on a plow. She was the plow and I was the grasshopper just sittin’ there lookin’ like I was kickin’ up all that dust. Now I’m having to learn how to be the plow and, I’ll tell you, I’d a whole lot rather go back to being just a grasshopper!

After her death, I received hundreds of emails about Tina from fans, DJs, presidents of bluegrass associations, and owners of record companies — so many stories about her kindness, sense of humor, and insights — written words now honoring her. She believed passionately in bluegrass music and in the people who made it. I can just imagine her encouraging those harp players in heaven to take up the banjo and play along with Charlie Poole.

Lookout Academy Awards…

January 27, 2013:  “Rollin’ On” Film Selected for Bluegrass on Broadway Film Festival

Bluegrass on Broadway

Bluegrass on Broadway

When I was notified that our documentary “Rollin’ On” was selected for screening at the 13th Annual Bluegrass on Broadway Festival, I was thrilled. This prestigious festival is jointly sponsored by the Northern California Bluegrass Society (NCBS to their friends!) and the International Bluegrass Music Museum.

The idea for the film came up when I was approached by a filmmaker in New York about using our band to create a documentary. I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea, but sure am glad that he convinced me to go along with it!

Shot in 1998, “Rollin’ On” is a behind the scenes look at life on the road with me and the band. Viewers hitched a ride on the Redbird Express as we criss-crossed the northeast playing at Lincoln Center, radio shows, bluegrass festivals and even a square dance. The documentary was released with our CD “Troubled Times.” Unfortunately, it couldn’t be released for showing on TV or the “big” screen due to licensing issues with the music.

I made the trip out to Redwood City, CA to be on hand for the Q&A after the screening and am so glad I did. This was the first time I had gotten to attend a screening and was blown away by the crowd’s enthusiastic response. It was so great to hear the audience laughing (at the appropriate places!) and hear their applause at the end. The Q&A was fun too and it was pretty clear from the questions that the crowd felt our little film was a wonderful representation of the life of a typical bluegrass band.

“Porchlight Sessions” by Anna Schwaber and “Rollin’ On” were obvious crowd favorites. This event will definitely be a highlight of my 20th Anniversary celebration. Now I can’t wait to wrap up the documentary “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass: Tales of the Early Days in Their Own Words” and hope that I’ll be invited back to the festival again in 2014!

Bluegrass Blog: Stardust Daze

January 25, 2013: 20th Anniversary Celebration Kicks off in January

As the band and I were cannonballing down the highway to the Bluegrass in the Park Festival in Yuma, I received an email from noted columnist, Richard Thompson, that Bluegrass Today was running a special article about me on the front page of the e-zine. When I read the article, all those memories of 20 years in the bluegrass business came flooding back. It was intense!

When I finally arrived at the festival and got to the warm up tent, I saw one of the Get Down Boys sleeping in a corner and it reminded me of back when I was a kid. I used to go to bluegrass festivals with my dad and uncles, living off donuts and coffee (don’t tell my mom!) and sleeping anywhere I could lay my head, just for the chance to see the greats like Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, and Lester Flatt.

Back then I had stardust in my eyes as I looked up at those legends on stage in their fancy clothes and shiny boots playing the best instruments money could buy. Now, as I change into my own dress clothes in the warm up tent, balancing on a tiny piece of cardboard in order to keep my socks dry and gulping down a tin of sardines, that stardust is still there every time I walk out on stage.