Traditional Bluegrass on the Loose

Wild Card (Mountain Redbird Music)

James Reams & William Hensley and the Barons of Bluegrass

By Bob Mitchell

(Note: This review is written in the spirit of a humorous press release sent by the band as well as an energetic and entertaining recording.)

The notorious Reams-Hensley gang, Barons of Bluegrass, is guilty of releasing another project of old school music. Previously convicted for trafficking in traditional country and bluegrass, the band is once again on the run from CMA officers who allege that native Kentuckian James Reams, Walter Hensley and the Barons violated parole for their steadfast refusal to use drums and electric instruments.

According to CMT Wanted Posters, Hensley, armed with a banjo, is the most dangerous musician and is capable of rapid fire instrumental support at the slightest provocation. Hensley's fierceness is especially evident in "Hump Back Mule," and his original song, "Wild Card."

Listeners are also warned to be on their guard when "Godfather" Reams picks up his weapon of choice, the guitar. In spite of repeated warnings from his probation officer, Reams continues to sing traditional bluegrass. The criminal aspect of his singing is that he enjoys it. Proof of felonious intent is clearly evident on selections such as the lighthearted "I Caught a Keeper," "Old Can Press" and "Hump Back Mule."

The villainous Carl Hayano is charged with trafficking in rock-solid bass playing and soaring tenor vocals. His contribution to the gang is evident on each cut but no more so than in "Working on a Building" (as opposed to working on a rock pile). Long time gang member (eight years) Mark Farrell is responsible for security, solid mandolin chops and fugitive fiddle. Jon Glik rounds out the mob on fiddle as well. His gangster-like bow work is particularly menacing in a first rate cover of Bill Monroe's "Road to Columbus."

Warning: this recording is designed for the listener who enjoys the authentic raw sound of traditional bluegrass. However, as a bonus for the purchase of this CD, Reams and Hensley will place each fan in a listener protection program in the event of judicial action from CMA or CMT.

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