Recordings

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Rhyme & Season – 2016

This album represents something James has wanted to do for a long time. It’s a concept album that tells a lot about his own personal journey while connecting with the journeys of so many across the US. Rhyme & Season includes a nice mix of uptempo songs and ballads plus an a cappella song and a breakneck instrumental that’ll have you gasping for breath. James guarantees there’s something to please everyone on this album!

Another thing that makes this album unique is that it includes tracks recorded by band members from both the east and west Barnstormers. To have both band represented on one album is a dream come true for James and really supports the flexibility that this band offers. Recorded live in the studio, the album offers “an authentic, gritty feel to the music that can’t be faked. This is a fine record.” (David Morris, Bluegrass Today)

It’s James’ sincere hope that Rhyme & Season will help raise awareness about the different faces of the homeless in our nation. To that end, he will be contributing a portion of the proceeds from the album sales to a local charity in Phoenix, Circle the City, that provides medical respite care for homeless veterans and others who have no place to go once they are released from the hospital.

Most of the songs on Rhyme & Season celebrate the free and independent spirit that lives within all of us and especially flourishes in folks like truck drivers, train hoppers, and wanderers. Overall, it’s an upbeat album that speaks of hope and encourages acceptance and understanding of those who choose to be homeless or have it thrust upon them.

  • James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Mark Farrell – mandolin, harmony vocals
    Billy Parker – mandolin, harmony vocals
  • Doug Nicolaisen – banjo
    Tyler James – banjo
    Evan Ward – banjo and harmony vocals
  • Nick Sullivan – upright bass, harmony vocals
    Dan Meyer, upright bass
  • Kenny Kosek – fiddle
    Michael Rolland – fiddle

Honky Tonk

One Foot in the Honky Tonk – 2011

This album made two Top 10 Lists for CDs in 2011 and featured a single that charted nationally, Almost Hear the Blues. “A wonderful bluegrass album that is just waiting for more of us to discover. As he has consistently done, within this new volume James Reams’ life experiences and those of his ancestors permeate the songs – whether he wrote them or not – not lending them authenticity but ensuring they are authentic. When listening to James Reams, one is on a bridge connecting the present to the past, where the waters below blend the relationships and lamentations of today with those who birthed and shaped them. There are few bluegrass singers who match the lithe and masculine timbre Reams brings to the songs he is called to perform. With One Foot in the Honky Tonk, James Reams further defines his bluegrass, blending the varied elements of the roadhouse with sounds from the hills of Kentucky and her neighbors. One foot in the honky-tonk indeed, but the rest of the Barnstormers’ bodies and their souls are deep in the bluegrass.” ~ Donald Teplyske, Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, 2011 Top Ten CDs

“[James Reams and the Barnstormers] have been around almost two decades, playing their own style of music. James’ music is hardcore traditional bluegrass and acoustic music. There’s no indication that he feels bound to the Monroe tradition and you’ll hear some old-time sound in his music, but if he isn’t in the same vein of coal with Monroe he’s certainly in the same coal mine.” ~ Larry Stephens, Lonesome Road Review, Top 10 CDs of 2011

Signifying a period of growing esteem and prominence within the bluegrass world, this album also marks a series of transitions for James and his band mates. Joined again by long-time compatriot Mark Farrell, a multi-instrumentalist whose fiddle and mandolin excellence have highlighted four previous Reams’ projects, the line-up on this album is as strong as ever. Circumstances and good fortune have brought Barnstormers Doug Nicolaisen and Nick Sullivan into the fold. What remains the same is the passion and precision with which their music is shared.

  • James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Mark Farrell – fiddle, mandolin, harmony vocals
  • Doug Nicolaisen – banjo
  • Nick Sullivan – upright bass, harmony vocals
  • Kenny Kosek – fiddle (on tracks where Mark is on mandolin)
  • Barry Mitterhoff – mandolin (on tracks where Mark is on fiddle)

Wild Card

Wild Card – 2006

In this return engagement, James Reams (“The Kentucky Songbird”) and Walter Hensley (“The Banjo Baron of Baltimore”) offer up, with the able collaboration of Jon (“Baltimore Jonny”) Glik, Mark Farrell and Carl Hayano (gotta get those last two boys some nicknames), a strong hand of songs and tunes, some originals, some traditional, some rare gems and some drawn from unexpected places. Cut in one wild weekend, with all the musicians in the same studio at the same time and not a Pro-Tool in sight. Presented to you with all the edges intact and all the excitement raw.

In their understated but quietly confident way Reams, Hensley and compatriots make some of the most satisfying bluegrass around. I suppose that there is no one way that bluegrass is “supposed” to sound; nor, I’m sure, should there be. But if there were, it ought to be something like this, where the singers, the pickers, the songs and the soul of the music are as one.” ~ Jerome Clark, Rambles.NET

The band’s self-titled first album, released in 2003, was nominated by the International Bluegrass Music Association as one of only seven nominees for its Recorded Event of the Year award. Here’s what Richard D. Smith wrote in Bluegrass Unlimited about that earlier album: “If you’re tiring of the slick stuff and yearn for something straight-ahead, there’s not a false bend or blend here.“

If you’re hungry for bluegrass music with more grit and less glitz, here’s another heaping helping.

  • James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Walter Hensley – banjo, 2nd guitar
  • Mark Farrell – mandolin, fiddle, baritone vocals
  • Carl Hayano – upright bass, tenor vocals
  • Jon Glik – fiddle, mandolin

Troubled Times

Troubled Times (with DVD Rollin’ On and preview of documentary “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass”) – 2005

The CD includes three original songs (including Hills of My Country, an original song written by James Reams and featured in the film “Wake Up! West Virginia” about mountaintop removal), two original banjo tunes, and some under-recorded gems that the band has taken off the shelf and made their own. “… delightfully unadorned 1950s-style bluegrass that draws heavily on, yet doesn’t mimic, the best-loved bands of that era,… a 14-track playlist that never gets boring,… a sixty-minute DVD film entitled ‘Rollin’ On,’ which documents the band as they serve as engaging bluegrass ambassadors in such venues as a Lincoln Center music festival and a community square dance.” ~ Aaron K. Harris, Bluegrass Unlimited

“It is evident that James Reams & The Barnstormers not only love bluegrass music, but they have a healthy respect for those that have come before them. The Barnstormers can lay it down with the best of them, yet never seem to compete for the spotlight, holding their place and propelling the music forward. Reams has a great voice for the old time songs and is right in line with his musical heroes such as Red Foley and Carter Stanley. It is groups like James Reams & The Barnstormers who will not only tow the line of authentic bluegrass, but will provide the next generation of bluegrass musicians a watermark for authenticity.” ~ C. Eric Banister, AmericanaRoots.com

  • James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Mark Farrell – mandolin, fiddle, baritone vocals
  • Carl Hayano – upright bass, tenor vocals
  • Mickey Maguire – banjo
  • Kenny Kosek – fiddle
  • Barry Mitterhoff – mandolin

Packaged with the CD is a two-feature DVD:

  • Rollin’ On ~ Take a ride on the Redbird Express with James Reams & The Barnstormers as the band criss-crosses the northeast playing at Lincoln Center, on radio programs, at bluegrass festivals and even for a square dance. This film provides a behind the scenes look at life on the road with the band. (Directed by Joe Coppa and James Reams). “Rollin’ On” was selected for screening at the 6th Annual NCBS and International Bluegrass Music Museum’s Bluegrass on Broadway Film Festival in Redwood City, CA (2013).
  • Pioneers of Bluegrass ~ Preview version of a longer documentary, currently in production, in which members of the “first generation” of bluegrass talk frankly about the early days of the music and life on the road, in interviews conducted at the opening of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, backstage at festivals and on the buses of these pioneers. (Preview directed by Joe Coppa, David Fasano and James Reams; full-length documentary to be released in 2013)

Barons

James Reams & Walter Hensley and The Barons of Bluegrass – 2002

“There is true folk magic in every note Walt plays,” said Alan Lomax of the late great banjo player Walter Hensley. This was his first recording in 25 years and it was nominated by the International Bluegrass Music Association as a Recorded Event of the Year. “This is an interesting, eventful collaboration of two influential musicians who have a great deal of experience in bluegrass music… If you like your bluegrass served up with excitement in a classic style of yesteryear, this album should find a place in your collection.” ~ Joe Ross, reviewer for Bluegrass Now and SPBGMA’s Bluegrass Music News

If there was a roster of influential and innovative banjo players, Walter Hensley would be on it, but as Bill Monroe biographer Richard D. Smith writes, “Walter remains one of the underrated greats of the 5-string.” Walter — known as the Banjo Baron of Baltimore — played with Earl Taylor & the Stoney Mountain Boys and later fronted his own band, the Dukes of Bluegrass.

The punch, drive and inventiveness of Walter’s banjo playing is joined on this album by the hard-charging rhythm guitar and soulful singing of James Reams, whose vocals were described by Banjo Newsletter as sounding “as smoky as his heroes: Lester, Carter and Red.”

Recorded live in the studio, this album includes two original tunes from Walt which exhibit the ingenuity, craft and pure excitement of the classic bluegrass instrumentals as well as an original song from James and his partner Tina Aridas. Along with a few traditional songs and some under-recorded gems, this album sounds like the sort of album that might have been made in those earlier days of bluegrass. What comes through to the listener is the musicians’ unmistakable and unmitigated love for the music they’re playing. This is the real thing.

Thirteen cuts of great traditional bluegrass music by great traditional bluegrass musicians.

  • James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Walter Hensley – banjo
  • Mark Farrell – fiddle, mandolin, baritone vocals
  • Carl Hayano – stand-up bass, tenor vocals
  • Bob Mastro – fiddle
  • Barry Mitterhoff – mandolin

Barnstormin

Barnstormin’ – 2001

Now available as a FREE download from NoiseTrade, this is the debut CD for James Reams & the Barnstormers.  “This isn’t citified, ersatz bluegrass, it’s the real stuff…. reminiscent of the sophisticated stylings of fellow Kentuckian Bill Monroe mixed with the old time, deep-hollow sound of the Stanley Brothers…This is hard-core bluegrass from down home… The originals, like ‘Buffalo Creek Flood’ and ‘The Cincinnati Southern,’ are story-telling songs in the classic country mold.” ~ John Lupton, Country Standard Time

“Reams’ commanding voice takes the listener all the way back to Kentucky, with an unaffected Monroe-style quality that bends to capture the mood of each selection…The authentic nature of both words and melody nail the style.” ~ Stephanie P. Ledgin, Sing Out! Magazine

“Sure to delight any bluegrass fan looking for something out of the mainstream.” ~ Jim Lee, Dirty Linen

Containing 15 traditional and original bluegrass songs and tunes.

  • James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Mark Farrell – mandolin, fiddle, baritone vocals
  • Carl Hayano – upright bass, tenor vocals
  • Mickey Maguire – banjo
  • Kenny Kosek – fiddle
  • Scott Risner – mandolin

Redbirds

The Mysterious Redbirds 1992-1998 – 2000

“…Here are three great musicians, with nothing to prove. They just lay into thirteen tunes – not even terribly obscure ones – and indulge in some great grooves and pristine empathy… Each member is a seasoned vet, with Tom Paley (the banjo player and a founding member of the immeasurably influential New Lost City Ramblers) being the most recognizable name. His clean clawhammer and three-finger playing is definitely an asset, and his treatment of the chestnut “I’ll Fly Away” is particularly dignified. Guitarist James Reams is a rock, the perfect foundation for this bass-less aggregation. Bill Christophersen’s fiddle sails on top of it all with a great balance of grit and elegance…” ~ Brad San Martin, Country Standard Time

“…The Mysterious Redbirds are an old-time trio composed of James Reams on guitar, Bill Christophersen on fiddle and Tom Paley on banjo, with all three handling the vocal chores, 1992-1998 feels like an old shoe. Comfortable from the first note, these three are perfectly suited to perform as a trio. The Redbirds approach their music from the song structure, not trying to duplicate anyone else. These are three master musicians playing in a loose congenial style that is so very engaging. The listener is treated to a session featuring three of the finest players, not unlike visiting the stalls of Galax or Mt. Airy. Don’t miss this one!” ~ Tom Druckenmiller, Sing Out! Magazine

  •  James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Tom Paley – banjo, vocals
  • Bill Christophersen – fiddle, vocals

Blackest Crow Cover

The Blackest Crow – 2000

James Reams’ second solo CD includes many of the same musicians who joined James on his earlier CD, Kentucky Songbird. “An enticing collection of old-time country music…an engaging representation of musical Americana.” ~ Bluegrass Unlimited

“A fine old-timey flavored project full of interesting material, excellent singing, straight-ahead flatpicking and just oozing with Appalachia.” ~ Dave Higgs, DJ at WPLN-FM’s Bluegrass Breakdown show in Nashville

“James Reams is a wonderfully expressive singer, and the title track is one of many highlights on this recording. James transforms it into a stately waltz, with the fine back-up vocals of David Roche. Another highlight is the Kieran Kane and Jamie O’Hara classic “Just Loving You” with its live in the studio sound. The Bailes Brothers’ “Oh So Many Years” could have been recorded in the 1940s as the immediacy again makes for an authentic country record. The Blackest Crow naturally features the vocals of James Reams, but he is also a fine rhythm guitarist with a driving style. There is nothing fancy here, just good solid old-time playing and singing. By the way, look for James’ first recording, Kentucky Songbird; it’s a dandy too. ~ Tom Druckenmiller, Sing Out! Magazine

  • James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Guests: David Hamburger, John Herald, Tom Paley, Bill Christophersen, Kenny Kosek, Danny Kalb, Orrin Star, David Roche, Bev Grant

Songbird

Kentucky Songbird – 1994 (currently out of print)

Folk Roots magazine called this CD “powerful, emotional music that needs to be heard.” John Herald, of the legendary bluegrass band The Greenbriar Boys, and Tom Paley, founding member of the seminal old-time band The New Lost City Ramblers, are among the many distinguished and talented guest artists on this CD. The Old-Time Herald calls James “an excellent singer with a warm and smooth voice that moves easily across registers.” Dirty Linen had this to say, “Reams’ engaging voice and distinctive flat-picking take you to his roots, rural eastern Kentucky…a powerful project.”

  • James Reams – guitar, lead vocals
  • Guests: David Hamburger, John Herald, Tom Paley, Bill Christophersen, Danny Kalb