Stace England “Greetings From Cairo Illinois” (Gnashville Sounds Records 2005)
This must have been something of a labour of love for Stace England, a 'concept' record based on the chequered history of the town of Cairo (pronounced Kay-ro) in southern Illinois. So we get corruption, racial disharmony, lynchings and a persistent condition of perceived underachievement. Cairo, we are told, is at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, a location which should have led to its growth into a major mid western city, but, well, it didn’t and this record tells that story of just how it didn’t. Some songs are covers, a traditional folk song 'Goin' Down To Cairo' from 1858 opens the record in choral/barbershop style, next up 'Cairo Blues' was first heard in 1929, a very enjoyable acoustic finger picked folk blues. Other songs are original and tell of incidents in Cairo's history like the self explanatory 'Grant Slept Here', and the splendidly titled 'Equal Opportunity Lynch Mob' a banjo driven folk song with a sing-a-long chorus which tells of an infamous lynching in 1909 when one black man and one white man were brutally murdered. 'Jesse's Coming To Town' is the tale of a 1969 visit from black leader Jesse Jackson, and is in a 70s 'Shaft' style, horns, funky bass line and everything. Jason Ringenberg, he of the Scorchers, turns up on 'Prosperity Train', and that gives away the guitar driven cowpunk style of this one, and you could probably guess that the 'Prosperity train aint stopping here no more'. Not all the songs are successful in making an impact, but overall as a project it certainly works, though the Cairo tourist board may have some issues with the warts'an'all exposé of the city’s less than glorious history. 'Greetings From Cairo Illinois' tells a very interesting story, Stace England has made a fascinating record, an admirable achievement.
Date review added: Friday, April 22, 2005
Reviewer: Patrick Wilkins