St. Christopher/Waterbug Records

While it's mostly fiction, this is how the west really was won and lost.

The 'sounds like' album title CALAMITY JAMES hints at the contents of Chicago based McCandless's latest solo release.
If you're already thinking 'ye olde wild west' you've hit the nail square on the head. Barring Black Bart and Lash LaRue, the stories that unfold in the other songs are fictional and in that regard mirror the work of western novelists Ned Buntline, Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour.

Molloy, is not only an Irish sounding surname, there's a perceptible Celtic edge to this acoustic guitar instrumental (adapted from the traditional Irish jig Banish Misfortune), and a similar Irish-ness permeates Kaitlin. Long Ago We Laughed At Shadows, according to the liner booklet the final track, is the third guitar led instrumental. Following sixty seconds of silence, there's a three minute long untitled love themed song and I'd hazard a guess that the title is Diana Gale.

During the California gold rush, the Wells Fargo stage coach company was plagued by a robber called Black Bart. McCandless relates how Bart took a job with a California freight company thereby gaining "the inside info.

"With a "propensity for fun, " during robberies Bart covered his face with

a flour sack and always left a new poem he'd composed at each job.

While most western heroes packed pistols, movie actor Lash LaRue was a little different. Employing a blues tinged melody, McCandless recalls the good guy who always dressed in black and was proficient with his weapon of choice - an eighteen-foot long bullwhip. Christened Alfred LaRue his screen popularity peaked around 1950.

In a Dodge City, Kansas saloon a telegraph office clerk who volunteered for a Good Samaritan mission, becomes the victim of "outrageous misfortune. " Album opener Long Branch, Wrong Night relates how a stray bullet fired in anger, during a barroom gambling dispute, ended Joe's life. One of the gems in this collection Queen Of The Old 4-J is a mellifluous tale of love that's unrequited, while without his faithful four-legged friend, a cowboy's options were limited and Wild Horse and My Beautiful Red Roan attest to that. As for McCandless's vocal tone during The Platform, I could have sworn that I was listening to Ian Tyson.

Tom Russell and Ian Tyson have tackled cowboy themed recordings in the past, and CALAMITY JAMES adopts a more rootsy, stripped down approach. Assisting McCandless (guitar, vocals) are long time collaborator Julie Macarus (strings), plus Jimmy Moore (bass), Victor Sanders (guitar) and Kaitlin Roberts (guitar).

-Maverick Magazine