St. Christopher 300114001

Give some of these James McCandless songs 50 years and people might be calling them folk songs. James mainly writes about people other than himself, and his historical characters range from bank robbers to Michelangelo. This re-release combining two previous McCandless recordings of Out West Somewhere and a the CD release Sea of Freedom share a consistent flavor and theme, largely Western. Out West is more of a joint effort between McCandless and fiddler/vocalist Julianne Macarus. Macarus contributes only occasional vocal accompaniment to Sea, however, with talented Martin Hayes picking up the fiddle duty.

"Springfield" tells an involving story of a family, tied together by sons given the same first names as presidents, as American history runs through their lives.

The song "Sea of Freedom," built upon solid word play, departs from the Western theme. James fills Out West with several instrumentals, and a few of the songs have more salt and vinegar than those in Sea. "It May Go On Without Me," is a marvelously tongue-in-cheek, egotistical declaration with traces of an Irish brogue. He uses the same style in "The Drunken Brawl," the ultimate song of a mugging. In between, Macarus performs a viola solo of the traditional "Boys of Bluehill."

McCandless conveys a consistent vision throughout of who he is and how he wants to entertain - and he succeeds.

- Rich Warren