I started out playing young, in the church and with family. I got into one local band after another. Then things changed late in life. I had been touring and playing with Bill Christophersen. We toured up and down the East Coast and one day I met Tom Paley, who had played with Woody Guthrie. When Woody had come from Oklahoma Tom went on to become a genuine music legend, Bob Dylan mentions him as a big influence. Well Tom, Bill and I went into the studio to record--first time for me. The album was picked up by a bluegrass label out of Roanoke, Virginia, and that changed things for me. I then got to work with the late John Herald and John Cohen. I teamed up with Walter Hensley and then formed the Barnstormers and this band has been making music for 15 years. In all I've been featured on eight albums the latest being James Reams & The Barnstormers--One Foot In The Honky Tonk.
The term “barnstormers” came from a group of entertainers that went around and entertained in barns, that seemed to fit us, of course it’s been used to describe baseball players, aviators and politicians. We’re a bluegrass band. I like the term barnstormers and feel lucky that we have it.
I'm so proud of the band. I've been a bandleader for over 15 years and this present band is very special in my mind.
The bassist is Nick Sullivan. Nick has been playing bass since he was a tot. He started playing 1950s rock-a-billy when he was 12. He has covered lots of musical terrain since that time; from ragtime, early country music to bluegrass. He adds a rock-solid bass and great singing to the Barnstormers sound. He knows how to walk the bass just right for that Honky Tonk feel--he's just a great musician--period.
Doug Nicolaisen has been playing banjo with bluegrass bands for the past 18 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 sound of the band. Part of his style incorporates "Reno style" banjo and this allows us to do the Honky Tonk numbers on the new album. He just has great tone and feel.
Mark Farrell is no stranger to bluegrass and old-time country music, having played and recorded for many years with a number of bluegrass and old-time string bands. He also contributes his great arranging talent to many of the band's recordings. His great hoedown fiddling--I think of Curly Ray Cline when I think of Marks' fiddling--is just exciting to watch. He has an edgy mandolin style to boot. Listen to the instrumental on the "Rocky Creek" track. He also has an unpredictable sense of humor--thank heaven none of that’s on the album--but it earns him friends wherever he goes. He's a great soulful singer and I love the vocal marriage that he, Nick and I have.
My dad loved and played this music called bluegrass. I've learned so much from him. Of course Carter Stanley, Charlie Moore, Lester Flatt, Red Allen, and my buddy Larry Sparks are some of my favorite singers and influences. I learned from people I've played with. One of my all time favorite bluegrass records was the Don Reno and Red Smiley record they did for Mac Wisemen for Dot Records Sweethearts in Heaven. I spoke to Mac about that record and he told me he enjoyed doing harmony with Don and Red and it sounds that way.
We have an exciting, entertaining stage show with a variety of material. We incorporate so many things in our music from gospel, blues, and old time string band, lots of originals and some traditional numbers. Many in the band write songs and arrange.
What I always loved about bluegrass and the early days of country music was that bands would work on a song or tune and over time create a special feel or arrangement. That’s what this record, One Foot In The Honky Tonk, and band is about. We take material, sit and sweat over the details and then we go into the studio with our own arrangements. We listen to each other and create our own sound and feel. To me, what I always enjoyed about the music, was the emotion that a Carter Stanley, or Red Allen would bring to a record and that’s all I ever dreamed of doing.
The band’s eight CDs can be found on all major online music sellers. For more information go to: http://www.jamesreams.com.
Contact: James Reams 718-374-1086