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Wednesday 30 January 2019

State of the Union - Illinois

George writes
Number 4, and it’s Illinois, birthplace if William Jennings Bryan. You might think that, given that Chicago is in Illinois, you might get a blues track, or two. We shall see.

Illinois is the USA’s largest producer of pumpkins, which fact inspired the name of one of the state’s more famous groups, the Smashing Pumpkins.

And Walt Disney comes from Illinois (Chicago), which reminds me of this:

Question: What’s the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney?
Answer: Bing sings, and Walt disnae.

Like New York I found it a challenge to unearth a track about Chicago that might not be very familiar to many. Of course, I could be wrong there. The Hold Steady have made some belting albums, Stay Positive is a favourite in this house, one that inevitably results in a “that’s too loud, George” when when I descend the two flights of stairs after playing it. Loudly.

Today’s track is another belter, from the album Separation Sunday album. I expect, no demand, that when all you readers play it you get a similar reprimand.

And it would be simply perverse not to feature a track from Come On Feel The Illinoise. It’s Jacksonville, which is about the Jacksonville in Illinois and not one of the other twelve Jacksonvilles elsewhere in the USA. And after this you might as well not listen to anything else all day because this song is absolutely fantastic. It is so well, so cleverly, constructed, so well played, so well produced, it takes your breath away.

325 seconds of sheer brilliance.

And no blues.

CC writes
I can't believe George didn't choose this

The Handsome Family - The Giant of Illinois

or this
Wilco - Via Chicago

Over to Illinois native Brian for other suggestions


  1. I almost chose Andrew Bird's cover of the Handsome Family track. But didn't.

  2. I don't wish to be too critical of your intern, CC, but his failure to include Paper Lace's "The Night Chicago Died" borders on criminal.

    1. What can I say Ernie
      You just can't get the staff these days

    2. Ernie, I was considering that as a bonus video. But then it reminded me of Billy Don't Be A Hero, and I can't stop singing it to the dogs and farm cat.

    3. I once sang that on an anti-war march back in the 80s and was told off for not taking the cause seriously enough

  3. Yes, Paper Lace came to mind for me too.

    Kind of jealous George, that you're attacking this project with such gusto as I faltered after only 9 states. Are you going for the full 50?

    1. Alyson, the aim is to do all 60, amd I will certainly get into double figures.

    2. 60? Have I missed something?

    3. Ha ha - Wasn't going to mention it.

  4. He should get to at least 9 Alyson - I've a few waiting to be posted

  5. Beautiful, George. As someone who grew up in a town that called itself the pumpkin capital of the world, I approve! I would have used Sufjan Stevens and Wilco in a post like this too. And to Alyson and George I want to remind the two of you Stevens planned to do an album for all 50 states and managed only two. In other words, you're both doing just fine. It's a lot of work, and your readers recognize and appreciate the efforts.

  6. One of the few up tempo Nat King Cole songs I know is Little Joe From Chicago. Incidentally, I'm reminded of a little word puzzle I read in Readers Digest aged about 9 which has stuck with me all these years: What's 3/7 a chicken, two thirds a cat and half a goat = Chicago. Ha! That's the 1950s early 60s for you!

  7. Can't go wrong with the Hold Steady. I expected Sufjan too.

    The Night Chicago Died is a solid gold classic, whatever you think of Billy...

    Sunnyland Slim - Illinois Blues

    Tom Waits - Johnsburg, Illinois

    And, yeah, The Handsome Family.

    Too many Chicago songs in my library to begin listing them... and I'm not just talking about the ones by TAFKA The Chicago Transit Authority.