Singing: Bill Monroe biographer Richard D. Smith in Bluegrass Unlimited: "There are few vocalists as natural as Reams. He doesn't have to try to sound down-home, he's there at each turn in the song." Stephanie Ledgin in Sing Out: “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.” Guitar playing: Flatpicking Guitar magazine profiled James in its “Masters of Rhythm Guitar” series of articles. Songwriting: Country Standard Time: “The originals, like ‘Buffalo Creek Flood’ and ‘The Cincinnati Southern,’ are story-telling songs in the classic country mold.” Sing Out: “The authentic nature of both words and melody nail the style.” Barnstormin’, the band’s debut CD on Copper Creek Records, was released in 2001.
Dirty Linen writes that Barnstormin’ is “sure to delight any bluegrass fan looking for something out of the mainstream.” Country Standard Time writes, “This isn’t citified, ersatz bluegrass, it’s the real stuff...the music on this new Copper Creek disc features elements 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 CD was picked by WKCR as one of the top 12 of 2001. The band’s latest album – Troubled Times – was released in February 2005. Bluegrass Unlimited calls it “delightfully unadorned 1950s-style bluegrass that draws heavily on, yet doesn’t mimic, the best-loved bands of that era.” Sing Out magazine calls it “uncompromising, hard-core bluegrass.” No Depression writes, “The Barnstormers deliver an edge that’s missing from a lot of bluegrass being made today.” The CD contains 14 tracks, including three new original songs plus two new banjo instrumentals. Included in the package is a bonus, double-feature DVD. The first of the two films is Rollin’ On, which takes the viewer on a ride on the Redbird Express (the band’s red van, named after a retired NYC subway line) – from NYC to a bluegrass festival in a small town, to a live radio show, to a square dance in Brooklyn, to a church on Sunday morning.
This 80-minute feature will put to rest the oft-repeated misconception that old-school bluegrass music can’t possibly be made in New York City. The second DVD feature included in the package, Pioneers of Bluegrass Music, is a 20-minute preview of a feature-length documentary of the same name, still in production (by James Reams and David Fasano), 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 Blue-grass Music Museum, backstage at festivals and on the buses of these pioneers. Interviews are still ongoing for the full-length Pioneers of Bluegrass Music documentary. James Reams has played both old-time and bluegrass music since he was a child. There were traditional singers on both sides of his family.
When he was a teenager, his family moved to Freedom, Wisconsin, where he at-tended school and played music until moving to NYC in the 1980s. James also has a critically acclaimed old-time CD out on Copper Creek, The Mysterious Redbirds 1992-1998, which he recorded with New Lost City Ramblers founding member Tom Paley and old-time fiddler Bill Christophersen. James’ earlier solo albums, Kentucky Songbird and The Blackest Crow, also received excellent reviews. And he’s joined by legendary banjo player Walter Hensley for his Copper Creek recording, James Reams, Walter Hensley and the Barons of Blue-grass, released in 2003.
This is the first recording by the “Banjo Baron of Baltimore” in nearly 30 years, and his driving, inventive banjo playing is joined by James’ hard-charging rhythm guitar and soulful vocals. That album was nominated by the IBMA as a 2003 Recorded Event of the Year and named by WKCR-FM as one of the top 12 bluegrass CDs of 2003. Wild Card, the newest James/Walter collaboration, was released in April 2006 to critical acclaim. The Barnstormers: Mark Farrell has played bluegrass and old-time music for many years, recording with Major Contay & The Canebrake Rattlers, a well-respected old-time string band. He joined the Barnstormers in 1998 and is a triple-threat, contributing great mountain-style fiddling, mandolin and harmony vocals.
Doug Nicolaisen has been playing banjo with bluegrass bands in the NY tri-state area for the past 17 years. His music incorporates many of the best elements of all the major banjo players yet his style reflects an individuality of its own and adds to the hard-driving energy of the band. Nick Sullivan has been playing bass since he was a tot. In the northern woods of Wisconsin he started playing 1950s rock and roll when he was 12 and has covered lots of musical terrain since that time, from ragtime jazz and West African traditional music to early country music and bluegrass.
He adds rock-solid bass and great singing to the Barnstormers’ sound. More information is available at www.jamesreams.com. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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