Stace England

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  STACE ENGLAND Greetings from cairo, illinois GNASHVILLE SOUNDS 2005
The cover reminds you a lot of Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, and makes you think of one of those enduring rock albums to followers of the Boss and the rock' n' roll sound that bloomed in the outskirts of Asbury Park.  Instead Stace England was born and raised in the state of Illinois, and the Midwest does not have a lot in common with New Jersey.  He shows this on his third solo disc, strongly cemented in a Roots sound and a precise location around the city of Cairo.  The cover is set up exactly like a postcard, and it’s explained through the content of the album that this is a journey through the history and music of the residents of that city taken with care, using many old photos and explanations to accompany every song. 
More than a concept disc, the CD is laid out like a visit to a classic city in the United States:  prosperous, washed by two rivers (the Mississippi and Ohio), but also facing a series of circumstances (Civil War and racism) that prevented the evolution of the city and started it toward slow decline. 
The idea is ambitious and England demonstrates intelligence and confidence, getting help from a very large number of musicians (56 in all) that gives it a sense of community.  Every piece is different so the postcard is used to paint a general picture:  beyond the narrated and sung history, the songs themselves are vehicles for particular musical styles.  The route begins with a folk song from 1858 and acoustic blues that is a clear reference to the origins of the American music:  the sound then turns to genuine rock, blues, and country and highlights the suffering of people of color, through lynchings, migrations and various injustices. 
Between the interesting personal episodes we find "Far From the Tree", that frames the continuous passage from one generation to another with provincial rock and sounds like a smaller version of Ress Shad.  There are some other styles that give the disk an additional flavor of American music: the funk of “Jesse' s Comin' To Town” that returns to the struggle for civil rights, the slide of “Buy My Votes” on the corruption of the elections of 2000 and the unanimous closing roots rock of “Can' t We All Get Along” that asks people to think about the possibilities of fixing things in the future.  Along with the host we also find Jason Ringenberg, voice of the disbanded Jason & the Scorchers, who leaves his mark on "Prosperity Train", which includes harmonica and is driven by intense electrical instrumentation. 
“Greetings from Cairo, Illinois” proves that America is still full of interesting stories, old and new, for the curious to discover and preserve, like old postcards. 

Christian Verzeletti