St. Christopher
STCD 3001-4001 (1993), 2-CD

Chicagoan James McCandless is indisputably one of the area's finest song craftsmen. His most recent release is a double CD set comprising the first compact disc issue of Out West Somewhere, his 1991 duet recording with Julianne Macarus (reviewed in DL #36), and a new CD, Sea of Freedom.

Sea of Freedom continues the previous release's balance between contemporary themes and McCandless' continuing lyrical exploration of the old west.

"Lily Langtry" is a vivid portrait of a boy seeing the noted actress eating breakfast en route by train to San Francisco. "Memorial Day" is a melodic, sentimental visit to a 1950s family picnic. In "Springfield," McCandless traces his own family's early North American roots. "Red Bandanna" is a simple litany of the uses for such a piece of cloth. McCandless is backed by a band of Chicago's best Irish session players (including Macarus on backing vocals, John Williams on accordion, Martin Hayes on fiddle, and Jackie Moran on bodhrán), who take the spotlight on a medley of "Haste to the Wedding" and "St. Patrick's Day." My only complaint about Sea of Freedom is that, at 33 minutes, it goes by much too quickly.
-- Michael Parrish
(St. Charles, IL)
Dirty Linen