Greetings From Cairo, Illinois
Despite his title and concept Stace England probably hasn’t read Sufjan Stevens’ press clips, as there’s more river town archive rummaging to do. And he probably hasn’t heard Stevens either, judging by the flannel swagger, twanged-out blues and straight-up Scorchers rock (Jason Ringenberg guests on one track) that re-writes a complex but soulful history of southern-midwestern race and class conflict into white lightening. These eleven audio post cards tell of the rise and fall of one town doomed by floods and prejudice, and proceed to rock us right into the present. “Equality Opportunity Lynch Mob” is withering satire and perfect “Beer For My Horses” riposte; “Jesse’s Comin’ To Town” captures the civil rights iconography via falsetto soul jam; and “Buy My Votes” is just lowdown blues politics with a mean ZZ groove. “Cairo, Illinois is the most fascinating town in America” England kicks off the liner notes. He’s probably wrong, but in a less twee world he’d have the indie kids believing . . . rocking even.
- ROY KASTEN