JAMES REAMS AND THE BARNSTORMERS, “One Foot In The Honky Tonk,” Mountain Redbird Music. 15 tracks.
These days, most people think of outdoor family-oriented festivals when they think about bluegrass.
But, as James Reams writes in the liner notes to “One Foot In The Honky Tonk,” bluegrass pioneers like Red Allen, Jimmy Martin, Earl Taylor, Charlie Moore, Don Reno, Red Smiley and Carter Stanley honed their music in the honky tonks, roadhouses and beer joints of an earlier era.
Reams, who was born in the Kentucky foothills of Appalachia, has lived in Brooklyn, N. Y., for more than two decades now.
But his music, which straddles the border where traditional country meets bluegrass, remains untouched by years of city living.
“Honky Tonk” includes songs of rural life like “Cornbread, Molasses & Sassafras Tea,” an uptempo dance tune; “Bailing Again,” a song that finds a farmer talking to his dead father about crops and kids; and the traditional gospel song “City That Lies Foursquare.”
But the heart of the album lies with the honky-tonk theme.
The title cut finds a man listening to a “hillbilly song on the jukebox” with a painted woman on his knee — “one foot’s in the honky tonk, the other’s in the grave.”
The theme continues with “I Can’t Settle Down,” “In The Corner At The Table By the Jukebox,” “King of the Blues,” Stonewall Jackson’s “Almost Hear The Blues” and Harlan Howard’s “Goin’ Home.”
Reams wrote “River Rising” about a flood that washes a family away and, with the late Tina Aridas, “Snake Eyes,” a song about gambling with love.
The band — Mark Farrell, Doug Nicolaisen and Nick Sullivan with an assist from Kenny Kosek and Barry Mitterhoff — gets to strut its stuff on such tunes as “Susquehanna Getaway,” “Florida Blues,” “Rocky Creek” and “Passamaquoddy.”
Good album by a good band.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.JamesReams.com.