I like to believe-and perhaps it is a false belief-that I've been a good friend to bluegrass music for the past twenty-some years.
I've spent more money on bluegrass than I hope my wife ever knows-concerts, festivals, compact discs, various merch such as t-shirts, sponsorship of radio stations near and far-I've done my share.
Add in the thousands of volunteer hours supporting the playing of bluegrass, of organizing and promoting bluegrass concerts, as well as the hours writing about this darned music, sometimes feeling like I'm advocating for something that is working against itself, and it is no wonder I'm feeling older than I should.
Not complaining, just observing.
I've made friends within this music, folks that I care about even though I may go a year or more without communication. That's part of the bluegrass community-you can go years without seeing an acquaintance before running into them at an event and picking up right where you left off.
I know bluegrass music has made me a better person: more patient and accepting, less judgemental and definitely less certain of what I believe I know.
One of the best friends I've made in bluegrass music is James Reams. With his now departed partner in life and music Tina Aridas, James allowed me to peer into the independent bluegrass industry from the perspective of a rank outsider. I gained great insight from his and Tina's experiences, learning every step of the way the importance of personal relationships within this small world.
James remains one of my favourite bluegrass bandleaders and performers. One of my favourite people, period. I've attempted to plan a holiday around his Arizona appearances, and one day-hopefully soon-I'll find a way to head south to catch he and The Barnstormers performing. I am confident in my belief that he has created one of the richest and most diverse recording catalogues over the past two decades. If you haven't listened to James Reams & the Barnstormers, do some Googling and listening.
Within the next four days, James' current Kickstarter campaign will come to a close. With great support from his fans, James has raised almost 80% of his very modest goal to allow himself to begin the production of his next album "Rhyme & Season," his first since leaving New York City three years ago.
James has continued to lead The Barnstormers, maintaining a band on the east coast and one out west. As he states, "Bring a bandleader for bands on both coasts has been challenging, but mostly it has been rewarding." His new recording will feature both of his bands, and James promises some additional, exciting surprises.
James will donate part of the proceeds from album sales to projects benefiting the homeless. Now retired after a career as a school teacher, James has recently shared his experience as a homeless teenager. When he started putting together songs for this new recording, James "was struck by the broad variety of folks that are technically homeless: truckers, prisoners, addicts, and the elderly," among others. In addition to those typically identified as homeless, James is willing to examine the experiences of others who are displaced, including recent immigrants to the United States. As someone who has written frankly in the past about mountain top removal, social injustice, and the plight of the forgotten, one trusts that Reams will create an incredible collection of songs for this release, anticipated this autumn.
According to James, "My intention is to embrace a wide range of human emotion from happiness and love to loss and sorrow, and over it all to express the hope I feel about the future. As I listened to some old gems, I was once again amazed at the depth that bluegrass music brings to understanding the human character. These songs inspired me to add my own contribution to the album in the form of original material that touches on similar issues affecting our world today."
Please consider supporting this next project from James Reams & the Barnstormers. I have never been able to figure out how to make links here at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, so Google "Kickstarter James Reams" and help fund this worthwhile project. I have every confidence that you will be pleased that you did.