Wonderland – Ben James

Ben James has made quite an impressive name for himself in the last few years. Beginning as a member of the final configuration of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, James and his clear high tenor voice would go on to join Dailey Vincent, and as of recently, the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. Ben’s solo effort for RBR Entertainment, Wonderland not only displays the masterful vocal ability that fans have come to love from James, but also a selection of strong material done in a contemporary bluegrass vein.

The album starts off a bit subdued with A Little Past Little Rock, but quickly picks up steam with Shenandoah Wonderland. Written by Glen Duncan, this is a driving song that features superb vocals from Ben and his former employers, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent, as well as strong instrumental work from Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, Ron Stewart on banjo, and Josh Swift on dobro.

Teardrops In Tennessee, penned by James is a true standout. With the lyrics telling a story of moving past a heartbreak, Ben delivers an exceptional performance here. Tracks like this are proof of why many have come to love his distinctive voice. Along with Haynie, Stewart, and Swift providing instrumental backing, this song also features Aaron Ramsey on mandolin, Trey Hensley on guitar, and Ben Issacs on bass. Swift and Mike Rogers provide the vocal harmonies on this song as well.

Oh What A Silent Night by Harlan Howard and Marty Stuart is another highlight of this recording. Featuring Ben alongside Russell Moore and Ricky Skaggs on harmony vocals, this song of loneliness and wondering of why a love had to end demands a lot of vocal power. These three gentlemen bring it in spades. Skaggs also provides some great mandolin work to this track.

Maggie From The Mountains, by Billy Droze and Jim Parker, tells the story of how James and his wife Maggie met at Doyle Lawson’s bluegrass festival in Denton, NC. This sweet love song features James along with Rogers on tenor vocals and Swift on dobro and baritone vocals, as well as Bryan Sutton on guitar, Skaggs on mandolin, Stewart on banjo, Haynie on fiddle, and Issacs on bass.

Bobby and Sarah by Irl Hees has been recorded by a few different artists over the years, among them Rhonda Vincent and Special Consensus. Ben delivers a straight forward performance that once again demonstrates his powerful ability as a high lead singer.

I Hear You Calling was co-written by Ben and his former Quicksilver bandmate, Eli Johnston. This melancholy track features a compelling melody with strong vocals from James, Rogers, and Swift.

Wonderland is a really strong release. Ben James is a supreme vocal talent as well as a terrific songwriter. It’s easy to see why some of bluegrass and country music’s greatest masters have called upon him to lend his voice to their work. If there’s any doubt about James’ abilities, Wonderland should put all of those to rest.

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About the Author

Braeden Paul

Braeden Paul has been involved in various capacities of bluegrass music. A Texas native, Paul has been part of several Dallas-based bands as a mandolinist. He also serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Bluegrass Club in Grapevine, TX. As a writer, Braeden has also contributed numerous music reviews to the Bluegrass Society of America Facebook page, and is the co-author of Texas Bluegrass History: High Lonesome on the High Plains.