There's a tightly knit new wave of Chicago singer-songwriters who might be loosely classified as street intellectuals. The heavies in the group include Frank Tedesso, Dan Bern and James McCandless, the last being fortunate enough to display his craft on a splendid debut record, 'Faultline.'

McCandless has a resonant voice that sounds like Johnny Cash and Roger Miller.

His approach is set within the keen Chicago style of topical, country-folk songwriting pioneered by John Prine and SteveGoodman.

What McCandless songs like "Kareem and Me" may lack in melody, they make up for in wit:, 'Kareem and me goin' bald together, it's almost an honor when I think of it in that regard." Or, the honky-tonk saga of "You've Gone Hollywood": "You think your breeches are bigger than they really are, you'll prob'ly swallow Quaaludes from a Mason jar."

McCandless can also be a desperate romantic in material such as "Waiting Out The Morning," a haunting tune basted in country soul, and the ambitious title song, which reminds us how close we are to the edge.

-- Dave Hoekstra
Chicago Sun-times