Chandler’s concept album, The Gang, breathes life into some colorful characters of historical note, as well as some of the colorful characters he’s known as a 30-year member of the Hole In The Wall Gang.
The Gang hosts an annual four-day horseback ride and campout on the Willow Creek Ranch west of Kaycee, Wyo. The event takes place near the Hole In The Wall, a narrow pass through the Red Wall—a famous 350-foot-high sandstone formation at the southern end of the Big Horn Mountains—which helped secret a hiding place in the valley’s bottom. Infamous cattle rustlers, bank robbers, and other hard cases were known to have used this remote hideout in the late 1800s, not the least of which were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
“This album is my testament to the area,” says Chandler.
The spirit that inhabits the magnificence of Wyoming shines brightly in these songs. “Morning Star Moon,” the album’s cornerstone, was awarded a 2012 Spur award for Best Western Song by the Western Writers of America. It was inspired by Wyoming’s Dull Knife Battlefield, where the 4th Cavalry raided a Cheyenne encampment in 1876. Many Cheyenne froze to death during the winter that followed. “It’s such a beautiful place,” says Chandler. “But it gives you very mixed feelings.”
Ghosts abound throughout the album. Songs like “Through the Gap” recall Old West-era bandits, while others like “Ridin’ With Red” and “The Saint of Empty Saddles” commemorate close friends from the Gang who now ride the spirit trail.
A seventh generation Coloradoan, Chandler is deeply interested in Western history, sparked by vivid memories of his great-grandfather Morgan Patterson. A deputy sheriff, justice of the peace, bear hunter, and miner, this elder made a big impact on Chandler as a child. The outlaw ballads of Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins also influenced his music.
The Gang is Chandler’s seventh album and his most personal. It will leave you feeling like one of the Gang.
Arroyo Records, jonchandler.com