James Reams & the Barnstormers

Barnstormin' – 2001 (Copper Creek)

Reviewed by John Lupton

CDs by James Reams & the Barnstormers

Knowing that James Reams and his Barnstormers are based in Brooklyn these days is likely to bring to mind the TV commercial of a few years back for a well-known brand of salsa you remember, the one with the cowboys sneering at the absurdity of the competitor's brand that was made in...New York City?

As it happens, this isn't citified, ersatz bluegrass, it's the real stuff, and Reams has the credentials to back it up. He's a certified Kentucky native, having come to the Big Apple by way of Wisconsin, and 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.

The disc features 15 tracks, including traditional tunes like "Black-Eyed Suzy," "Freight Train Blues" and "Roses In The Snow" mixed with originals by Reams and his songwriting partner Tina Aridas like "Buffalo Creek Flood" and "The Cincinnati Southern" that are story-telling songs in the classic country mold. The standout track, though, is their version of "The First Whippoorwill," first popularized some six decades ago by early country star Bradley Kincaid. Big Apple or not, this is hard-core bluegrass from down home.