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