Stace England

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The concept album Greetings From Cairo, Ill is Stace England’s second work.  The album is dedicated to his city, Cairo, Illinois, and with good roots music and blues he recounts the story of this city with people, places and historic events. 
 
England is an adventurous singer songwriter from Illinois with a discreet career on his shoulders in roots bands like House Afire and Tecumseh; after the solo debut of 1998 he lands today with Greetings From Cairo, Ill, his second work.  The disk is an ambitious concept-album dedicated entirely to the story of the tormented town of Cairo, Illinois and the reasons, while having potential, it did not succeed and develop to compete with other cities.  What hits immediately is the stories are told in eleven pieces and accompanied by a variety of musical styles based on the structure of true blues and roots, with those two elements almost equally divided. 
 
In order to get better sounds on the disk, Stace has gotten help from many bands and musicians like guitarist and bassist Jimmy Salatino, drummer Charlie Morrill and from some special guests like Jason Ringenberg and singer Julie Sommer.  The opening of the disk starts with a traditional piece from 1858, Goin' Down To Cairo, sung by the Little Egypt Barbershop Chorus, which is absolutely perfect to immerse us in the special ambience of this disk.  It is followed by the skeletal acoustic blues of Cairo Blues, first recorded by Henry Spalding 1929, with violent lyrics that accurately paint the situation of this town during the period.  A step back is then done with Grant Slept Here, that tells the events of general Ulysses Grant who spent five months in Cairo during the Civil War, followed by pleasant roots pieces like The North Starts In Cairo, Far From The Tree and White Hats.  The direction is changed by the entrance of the funky blues of Jesse’s Comin' To Town, which shines as an attractive selection and tells of a visit to Cairo by Jesse Jackson.  Some echoes of Steve Earle are heard in the vibrating accusation Buy My Votes, which denounces the intrigue in elections of 2000 without flinching, and in the sad resignation of Prosperity Train.  The final song is the high intensity Can' t We All Get Along with excellent Hammond organ from Matt Workman.  To make things even more interesting a detailed booklet accompanies the disk and enriches it with extensive notes and a large amount of anecdotes and stories directly from Stace.  Beautiful period photographs and comments on the varied pieces enhance everything.  The sole negative note of this disk is that it will likely stay a work without an outlet to the larger public, but at times the smaller projects can reveal unexpected surprises.  It frustrates you. 

 - Salvatore Esposito

*See the original review in Italian here.