For nearly three decades, band leader James Reams has earned his nickname, the Ambassador of Bluegrass, for his stalwart dedication to the genre.
With both his life and career marked by highs and lows; challenge and triumph; Reams has always come through as a survivor; a champion with an indelible sense of humor. He has faced a life-threatening illness in his youth; homelessness; a bout with vocal cord paralysis that threatened his career; and the heartbreaking loss of his beloved partner and greatest advocate, Tina Aridas, to cancer. Still, James has endured as a songwriter, entertainer, and a supporter of other artists and musicians --- always with optimism and determination.
It should have been no surprise when James was approached by Joshua Smith and Rick Bowman, owners of MediaSmith, a video and photography company, about a feature-length documentary about Reams' life and career in music.
Plans were set in motion for Like A Flowing River: A Bluegrass Passage. Licenses were obtained for music, interviews were scheduled, film crews and sound technicians hired, and work on the script began. Filming began in 2017 with a plan for editing and mixing to be complete in time for James' 25th anniversary as a bandleader in 2018.
The documentary tells the story of an artist who burst onto the bluegrass music scene in 1993. Coming from the hills of Kentucky and making his way to New York City, James Reams pursued his passion for bluegrass and traditional music, while facing life's many ups and downs. Through every possible dam and blockage, James found a way to continue flowing with the music he loves so much.
A limited video release in 2018 eventually resulted in notice from MVD Entertainment Group, a full-service music and movie distribution firm, exclusively representing thousands of audio and visual products worldwide. With the variety of platforms that MVD services, the project required a variety of editing and platform adjustments in order to meet distribution requirements before a wide release could be planned.
"There have been so many twists and turns in my career," he says, "sometimes I wonder how on earth I got through it all."
Now, however, the documentary is complete and set for release August 7th with distribution is through MVD Entertainment Group. Directed by Joshua Smith, the project is available for preorder now, and a film trailer gives a glimpse into the documentary.
Reams' many contributions to bluegrass and old-time music include a prolific string of well-received recordings with James' own original songs, many co-written with Aridas. Two albums highlighted the playing of legendary banjo player Walter Hensley, a couple of other albums included old-time musician Tom Paley, and other recordings feature James' own band, The Barnstormers, playing old-time country and traditional bluegrass fusion.
A prior film gave a glimpse into life on the road with James Reams & The Barnstormers. Rollin' On was released in 2005 as a companion piece with the album Troubled Times. A documentary he'd begun with Aridas was later completed. That project, Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass: Tales of the Early Days in Their Own Words was released in 2013.
Like A Flowing River: A Bluegrass Passage is as much a story of hope as it is a musician's tale. It is a film is for all who are carried along on the sometimes peaceful and other times, raging river that is bluegrass.