Out West Somewhere
Sea of Freedom

St. Christopher 300114001

With the possible exception of Michael Smith, you'll not find a more gifted folk singer-songwriter working out of Chicago than James McCandless. McCandless ambitiously released two albums this year, "Out West Somewhere" and "Sea Of Freedom," which explore his interests in Irish music and the lore of the Old West through sharply etched musical character studies.

These two recent albums by masterful Chicago folkie James McCandless have been available previously with very limited distribution, but are now available more widely as a boxed set from St Christopher Records (7615 W. Touhy Ave., Chicago 60631). Indeed, the albums are a matched set that display McCandless' twin fixations with traditional Irish music and the lore of the Old West "Out West Somewhere" is a collaboration with violinist/vocalist Julianne Macarus whose pleasures include the evocative title track, the pithily recounted ''The Drunken Brawl" and the sardonic "It May Go On Without Me," which taken together showcase- McCandless' expansive writing style. Of the two, "Sea of Freedom" has a slightly stronger batch of songs, with "Springfield" and "Memorial Day" taken right from the pages of the McCandless family history. McCandless is a fine singer and a talented guitartst, but it's his finely detailed charater studies and slice-of-life vignettes that make his music so special.

- Tempo Recordings