Stace England & The Salt Kings

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Stace 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" (Gnashville Sounds).

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 Scorchers.  “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.

With 2010’s “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 homestead a farm near Gregory, South Dakota.  In his isolation he began to pen 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.  The CD was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and led to an innovative film festival tour.

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.

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