England hails from southern Illinois in the Great American Midwest, and
found his creative footing in Chicago during the early '90s with House Afire,
one of the first country/roots bands in what was to become a very
vibrant alt-country scene. House Afire enjoyed tremendous fan support,
and released one album, "Progress" (Bigwood) in 1992.
England returned to the isolation of rural southern Illinois and
recorded a project of aggressive folk material under the name Tecumseh,
releasing the well-received "Bearings" (Union) in 1995. His next
musical adventure was with the alt/slasher/country-rock outfit Jubilee Songbirds,
which released the eclectic "Birds of North America" (Western Front) in
1997. England released his first solo record, "Peach Blossom Special"
(Relay) in 1999, and a power pop CD in 2003, "Lovey Dovey ALL the Time"
England's concept/historical album
"Greetings From Cairo, Illinois" was a culmination of five years of
research, hundreds of conversations and "countless hours of general
hanging around" in what he describes as "the most fascinating town in
America, bar none." The CD traced Cairo's history from 1858 to the
present through the Civil War, lynchings, the blues years, civil rights
struggles and spectacular decline. England was joined on the CD by top
musicians from southern Illinois, Los Angeles and Nashville including
alt-country legend Jason Ringenberg of Jason and the
“Greetings From Cairo, Illinois” led to international interest in
England’s music and stories from southern Illinois.
With 2007’s “Salt Sex Slaves” England, along with his stellar core band
The Salt Kings
tackled another bizarre slice of unknown US history weaving true
stories of brutal salt production, slave breeding, kidnapped free
blacks and murder in a supposed Free State, the Land of Lincoln, into a
volatile, provocative Exile On Main St.-ish stew.
“The Amazing Oscar Micheaux” England and the Salt Kings set their
sights on the incredible life story of Metropolis, Illinois born
filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. After leaving Little Egypt he spent
time as a Pullman porter, traveling all over the US and as far as South
America. He then became the only African American to
farm near Gregory, South Dakota. In his isolation he began to
semi autobiographical novels, starting with The Conquest in 1913 and
The Homesteader in 1917. A small, black owned movie studio
approached Micheaux about making the standard short film of the period
based on The Homesteader, he instead formed his own film company and
wrote, filmed, produced and directed the sprawling epic, The
Homesteader in 1919. It was a sensation in Chicago and other
cities. Then, in a direct challenge to D.W. Griffith's racially charged
Birth of a Nation Micheaux released his masterpiece, Within Our Gates
in 1920. Audiences were stunned. The film remained lost for
almost 60 years until a single copy was discovered in Spain in
1990. His triumph was the equivalent of making Citizen Kane
without any financial backing from Hollywood or other connected
sources. Micheaux bested Orson Welles in accomplishment, and by two
plus decades, yet he is virtually unknown to most Americans.
CD was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and led to an innovative film
Next up: America, Illinois, songs from a
post 911 United States filtered through the lens of the tiny village of
America in Pulaski County, Illinois.