James Reams, Walter Hensley & The Barons of Bluegrass | Wild Card

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Wild Card

by James Reams, Walter Hensley & The Barons of Bluegrass

Old-school bluegrass. Edgy and emotional.
Genre: Country: Bluegrass
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. I Caught A Keeper
2:34 $0.99
2. Hump-Back Mule
1:47 $0.99
3. Kentucky Mountain
2:44 $0.99
4. Road To Columbus
2:00 $0.99
5. Where No Heart Goes Hungry
3:34 $0.99
6. We're The Kind Of People That Make The Jukebox Play
3:39 $0.99
7. Dreaming Of A Little Cabin
3:24 $0.99
8. Wild Card
2:07 $0.99
9. You Don't Tell Me That You Love Me Anymore
2:42 $0.99
10. Old Cane Press
2:24 $0.99
11. You Must Walk The Line
2:03 $0.99
12. Working On A Building
4:56 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
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 under-recorded 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.

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.“

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

"Wild Card is not Nashville slick. But it's real.”
–Keith Lawrence, Owensboro (KY) Messenger-Inquirer

“With bluegrass music getting increasingly more slick, who would have thought that a band from Brooklyn, New York, would be a leader in reestablishing the classic sound of the 1950s… they are no ordinary bluegrass band as they draw much of their material from the South all the while playing with the power and drive of the big city.”
–Tom Druckenmiller, Sing Out

“… a dozen unabashedly rural bluegrass songs and tunes, reminiscent, perhaps, of a harder-edged Flatt & Scruggs…. 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

“If you are unfamiliar with James Reams, Walter Hensley & the Barons of Bluegrass, you may not appreciate the excitement many fans find in the arrival of their second album. Wild Card is much in the same vein as a self-titled release three years ago, with the added coherence that comes with the experience of playing together….Wild Card is another in a line of superior bluegrass recordings from James Reams and crew. Painstakingly and artfully packaged, Wild Card should be warmly received by the ever-growing legions who have come to appreciate their music.”
–Donald Teplyske, Bluegrass Now



to write a review

Step Lansing

Walter Hensley is a bluegrass banjo master!!!!!!
Walter Hensley's banjo playing should be "required listening" for all bluegrass banjo players. He was ahead of his time and very innovative. His banjo playing on this CD is as good as it's ever been. Nice to see him teamed up with a singer and band that not only keeps up with him but pushes the music forward. The lead vocals have a quality that sounds like a cross between Del McCoury and Lester Flatt -- and that's as good as it gets. And fiddling? Hot, hot, hot.

Joe Ross (Bluegrass Now)

Bluegrass music with fortitude and pluck
Playing Time – 33:54

Who They Are: A Brooklyn-based traditional bluegrass outfit that builds its presentation around James Reams’ emotional baritone voice and Walter Hensley’s masterful banjo picking.

What They Do: Tap Kentucky and Virginia mountain musical roots

Little Known Facts: The band was nominated by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) for its 2003 Emerging Artist of the Year Award. The band's self-titled first album, released in 2003, was nominated by the IBMA as one of only seven nominees for its Recorded Event of the Year award.

The Musicians: James Reams (“The Father of Brooklyn Bluegrass”) is originally from southeast Kentucky. He began playing guitar at age 12. From 1992-1998, he performed and recorded with a group called “The Mysterious Redbirds.” His solo albums date back to 1992 and 2000. In 1959, Walter Hensley played banjo at Carnegie Hall with Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys. In 1964, he recorded the first solo banjo LP ever produced by a major record label (“The 5 String Banjo Today” on Capitol Records ). The Barons of Bluegrass are Jon Glik (fiddle), Mark Farrell (mandolin) and Carl Hayano (bass). The band has been releasing albums since 2003, and “Wild Card” is their third band project.

The Songs: Their early country and original material written in a traditional style is like a well-documented archive of songs. It’s great to hear a bluegrass version of Johnny Paycheck’s “We’re The Kind of People That Make the Jukebox Play.” I would’ve loved to hear Flatt & Scruggs or Reno & Smiley cover that one. Like Reams, you’ll fall hook, line an sinker for the opening cut of Mike Dowling’s “I Caught A Keeper” about fishing in the sea of love. “Hump-Back Mule” is a traditional novelty tune that has the same drive of a standard like “Pig in a Pen” or “Ol’ Rattler.” And there’s nothing like a song from the repertoire of The Delmore Brothers (“Kentucky Mountain”). Glik and Hensley are in the driver’s seat with their fiddle, mandolin and banjo belted in for the instrumentals, “Road to Columbus” and “Wild Card.” The latter was written by Hensley. “When No Heart Goes Hungry,” a ballad co-written by James Reams and Tina Adridas, is based on a William Faulkner novella as well as the dedication page from a contemporary bestseller. It relates the tale of a young man seeking redemption while serving 20 years for robbing a mail train. The band’s confidence and clarion qualities would especially make them a thrill to see in live performance. The mother and cabin home themes are depicted in Albert E. Brumley’s ¾-time “Dreaming of a Little Cabin,” and the band revives Eddy Arnold’s 1945 hit “You Must Walk The Line” with its classic advice to stay on the straight and narrow.

Any Recommendations: Cut in one wild weekend, with all the musicians in the same studio at the same time and not a Pro-Tool in sight. Don’t expect perfection, but that technique magically captured the spirit and soul of their music. All the edges are still intact and all the excitement is raw. An eclectic set, there’s a taste of their own songwriting. The rhythm skills of James Reams are strong, and the banjo mastery of Walter Hensley is commendable. Jon Glik's and Mark Farrell’s fervent fiddle and mandolin work also provide nice fills and breaks. Vocal harmonies from Carl Hayano and Mark Farrell blend well although the phrasings are occasionally a tad out of sync.

The Bottomline Is: Bluegrass music with fortitude and pluck

Reviewed By: Joe Ross (staff writer, Bluegrass Now)