Troubled Times (Mountain Redbird Music)
James Reams and The Barnstormers

By Bob Mitchell

James Reams and The Barnstormers were nominated as "Emerging Artists in 2003" and although they did not win, they are a hard-working band that takes its music seriously. They make every effort to keep bluegrass authentic and "close to the ground" - as it should be. Their approach is no nonsense straight ahead country and bluegrass played with heart and soul.

"Troubled Times" is a very generous limited edition project that contains a CD with fourteen songs (five originals) and a DVD with a full-length feature documentary about the band's schedule (concerts on the road, working in a recording studio, and a studio broadcast of a bluegrass radio show); and a 20 minute preview of "Pioneers of Bluegrass" (interviews with 18 musicians including Curly Seckler, Jesse McReynolds, JD Crowe, Jimmy Martin and Bobby Osborne.) The most poignant segment of the "Pioneer" video features an obviously ill Art Stamper. He could barely speak, but his fingers danced with joy as he and a young girl played twin fiddles to the delight of a those fortunate enough to be near the impromptu jam session.

Reams plays guitar and provides all lead vocals. He's at his best on two lively cuts, "Ain't A Bump In The Road" and "You Better Wake Up." The Barnstormers consist of Mickey Maguire on banjo, Carl Hayano on bass and tenor vocals, and Mark Farrell on fiddle, mandolin and baritone vocals. With mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff guesting on "Head of The Holler" and "Lost Train Blues" the boys put the pedal to the metal. Maguire and Farrell's contributions are especially noteworthy in "You Better Wake Up," "Lost Train Blues," and Maguire's original instrumental, "Lost Forest."

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