When Waterbug was a baby, James McCandless and Julianne Macarus made a recording called “Out West Somewhere.” At that time there was a chain of 4 stores on the West Coast called HEAR Music; they featured independent artists with something to say, alongside the well-known major label singer-songwriters; their buyer, Tor Hansen, “got it;” they featured most of our early titles, sometimes selling as much out of their 4 stores as sold through traditional retail in the rest of the country. They wrote briefly about the music and customers could browse through and listen. It levelled the playing field. James McCandless and Julianne Macarus’ “Out West Somewhere” was the all-time bestselling recording at HEAR Music.
I’ve known James since I was a young songwriter starting out in Chicago 30 years ago. 9 years back he received a long-awaited, life-saving new kidney; he’s since persevered through an impressive series of ailments, accompanied by his loving wife Dee. I stopped by Jim’s in early August, 2009 – it had been a long time – and we talked till after two in the morning about this and that, politics, his outrage about the corruption and the murder rate in Chicago, his art and this record. Calamity James is, he says, a work of pure fiction, about gunslingers in the old West. It’s something of a miracle that this recording exists, moreso, that it represents Jim’s best work. As Monet arrived at his huge Water Lilies at the age of 80, as Beethoven arrived at his last quartets, McCandless is unreformed, body ravaged but his gift intact, turning the page, blowing the lid off, knocking down the devil. This is the shit.
I once had an appaloosa, but she was stolen by
A bandito from Texas, like a frog will snatch a fly
We chased him cross the border, til Rojo couldn’t breathe
I saw it in his sad, brown eyes, we’d never catch the thief.
The appy was muy bueno, with spots and a grayish tail
But Rojo, companero, was never known to fail
I love him more than sunlight, I love him more than time
I’ll love him ’til the cactus flowers turn to apple wine
There are 9 original songs and 3 instrumentals. McCandless claims it is pure fiction, but Calamity James is the poor samaritan in the wrong place at the wrong time; he’s the Wild Horse, he is Lash Larue (with a tongue for a whip), he is the man on the platform, and we are all there with him, alone. -AC
1. Long Branch, Wrong Night
2. Black Bart
5. Queen of the Old 4-J
7. Lash Larue
8. Wild Horse
9. My Beautiful Red Roan
10. The Platform
11. Long Ago We Laughed at Shadows
12. Ghost Track
Produced by James McCandless and Victor Sanders
JM – vocals, guitars
Julianne Macarus – strings
Jimmy Moore – bass
Victor Sanders – guitar
Kaitlin Roberts – guitar
Here’s a little background information…When I was a kid I was influenced by the books of Jack Schaefer (Shane, Monte Walsh) and Zane Grey (Riders of the Purple Sage) and the Western movies of the day, especially Shane, High Noon, and The Gunfighter, all of them cowboy action films but curiously anti-gun. In high school I read Existentialism (Camus, Sartre) and Theatre (Beckett, O’Neill). From the age of seven, when I started on guitar, I’ve played Irish and Blues music. My favorite songwriters are Shane MacGowan, Warren Zevon, Leadbelly and Bob Dylan. As a child in Lewistown, Montana, I sat at the knee of my Grandpa, enraptured by his Irish fiddle playing. We had no record player, no T.V. or radio. We had Grandpa. I’ve been in pursuit of his greatness ever since.