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Lots of songwriters have tried to define their vision of America, but Sufjan Stevens believes in taking a methodical approach. A couple of years ago, he set out on a fifty-record project to make a concept album about each state, starting with Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State. It's a ludicrously ambitious project, one that you wish Randy Newman or Al Green would have tried in decades past. But that's probably the only kind of project that would suit Stevens, one of the indie world's most eccentric and personal songwriters. He's a thirty-year-old Detroit native currently based in Brooklyn, whose most recent album was the acclaimed Christian-folkie meditation Seven Swans. He puts out his records on his own label, Asthmatic Kitty, and uses each one to explore a different obsession. On Illinois, he brings the religious feel of Seven Swans to his Fifty States Project, for a sprawling twenty-two-track tour of the Prairie State. It's part Schoolhouse Rock history lesson, part hippie Bible study. It has songs about UFO sightings, prairie fires, the Civil War, the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the poet Carl Sandburg and the Cubs. It also has a song called "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!"

(via RollingStone.com)

Added by brokekid on August 28, 2005