Jim Reilley was co-founder of the late-lamented folk-rock “gangstas”, The New Dylans. Along with songwriting partner Reese Campbell, Reilley roped in friends John Lombardo and Jerry Augustyniak of 10,000 Maniacs to record The New Dylans’ six-song debut ep in 1986. Earning praise from Village Voice rock critic Robert Christgau (who placed the ep in the top five albums of 1986 in the prestigious Village Voice “Pazz and Jop” poll), and R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe (who called it his fave album of that year), things were certainly rolling for the boys. Clueless in the face of such unanticipated success, Jim and Reese capitalized swiftly and decisively-they broke up. Once confronted however with the workaday life that until then had eluded them, the boys soon realized their mistake and reunited. Soon after, the lads inked a deal with Minnesota-based Red House Records who subsequently allowed two New Dylans albums to escape their folky clutches in the mid-1990’s. The New Dylans barnstormed the country playing to anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t) sharing stages with The Band, Townes Van Zandt, Shawn Colvin, The Fleshtones, Superdrag, Syd Straw, The Silos, Steve Forbert along with old pals 10,000 Maniacs. The New Dylans received glowing reviews from Rolling Stone, Musician, Mojo, Dirty Linen, Audio, Stereo Review, Pulse and Spin just to name a few. MTV also featured The New Dylans on two hugely influential programs, the Mark Pellington produced-“120 Minutes” and “The Cutting Edge” hosted by legendary Fleshtones frontman Peter Zaremba. Radio also fell hard for the boys with generous AAA airplay and feature spots on Acoustic Café, World Café, NPR’s All Things Considered, Idiot’s Delight with Vin Scelsa, and even a handful of appearances on ex-Partridge Family imp Danny Bonaduce’s WLUP show in Chicago proving to be somehow simultaneously the apex and nadir of The New Dylans’ strange path into critically acclaimed obscurity.
Reilley broke up The New Dylans and moved to Nashville in 1998, signing deal as a staff songwriter with Curb Publishing. In his 8 years at Curb, over 45 of Reilley’s songs were recorded by artists including Vince Gill, Hal Ketchum, Jack Ingram, Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush, Claudia Church, Joy Lynn White, Ronna Reeves, Cowboy Crush, Lisa Brokop, Ryan Tyler, Mustang Sally, Lauren Lucas, Susan Haynes, Amy Chappell and many others. In 2003, Reilley released his first solo album “The Return of Buddy Cruel” on Silent Planet Records. Produced by Grammy-winner Don Henry, the album was added to 28 AAA stations and lingered for 20 weeks in the top 25 of the Roots Rock Album Chart in the spring of 2003. Reilley paid a return visit to Acoustic Café, and the album also garnered airplay on BBC Radio 1 in UK, BBC Scotland, Radio Golden Flash in Belgium, Real Roots Café Network in central Europe, and BRTO’s Crossroads in Bergen, the Netherlands, whose host Jos Van Den Boom also placed the album in his top 10 albums of 2003. Performing Songwriter and Paste both ran feature articles on Reilley’s return, and “The Return of Buddy Cruel” also earned rave reviews from Billboard, Puremusic.com, Exclaim! Magazine in Canada, Ctrl.alt.country in Belgium, and Glitterhouse in Germany. Nashville’s local newspaper The Tennessean proclaimed “The Return of Buddy Cruel” one of the top 10 albums of 2003 and the track “Won’t Let You Make A Fool of Me” as one of the top 10 songs of 2003 in their year-end critic’s poll.
Reilley recorded a second solo album (“Thank God I’m A Contrary Boy”) in 2004 with Grammy-winner Robert Reynolds (The Mavericks) co-producing and featuring a band consisting of Ken Coomer (Wilco/ Uncle Tupelo), Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick), Jen Gunderman (Jayhawks), Audley Freed (The Black Crowes), Al Perkins (Gram Parsons/Manassas), Paul Deakin (The Mavericks) and David Mead. As of this writing, the album remains unreleased. In January 2010, Reilley’s song “The Man Who Had Everything” was named to BBC Scotland tastemaker Karen Miller’s “Best Of The Decade” list. In November 2011, Reilley was the featured writer in American Songwriter Magazine’s “Nashville Songwriter Series”. In October 2012, Reilley signed a new songwriting deal with Nashville based Rare Spark Media Group.