STYLE: Roots/Acoustic RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 13268-2907 LABEL: Rough Trade RTRADCD250 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1 RRP: £13.99
Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
After the success and critical acclaim of the 'Seven Swans' album, Stevens returns with 'Illinois', or 'Illinoise' as it says on the front sleeve, and his long term goal of writing and recording a set of albums that celebrates every state in the USA. We've already had 'Michigan' and now we have 'Illinois'. This is delightfully quirky stuff and of course, supremely ambitious. Following the pattern of 'Michigan', here are a selection of songs that celebrate the history and culture of the state as well as a few of Stevens' own observations and thoughts. Some of the best things about this album are the titles of the songs. Either they are extremely pretentious or Stevens is a man who likes to have a bit of fun. From the grand opening instrumental "Concerning The UFO Sightings Near Highfield, Illinois" to the closing "Out Of Egypt, Into The Great Laugh Of Mankind, And I Shake The Dirt From My Sandals As I Run", Stevens could win a Dove Award for the longest song titles in Christian music. Musically it's as diverse as ever however Stevens' banjo isn't quite as all encompassing as it was on 'Seven Swans'. Highlights for me are the melancholy of the touching "Casimir Pulaski Day" which finds Stevens emoting about the death of a friend. "They Are Night Zombies" is surprisingly soulful whilst "Come On Feel The Illinoise!" is not only a great pun but a fine song! Stevens continues to mystify and delight me with his music as he allows his faith to bubble up here and there in the midst of this unique and very challenging creative series.
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