Sufjan Stevens has strong personal ties to Oregon. Between the ages of five and eight, he summered in Oregon with his mother Carrie and his stepfather Lowell Brams. Their names together make up the title of Stevens’ latest album, Carrie & Lowell — which is also replete with Oregon references, many relating to our very own Eugene.
Here is a complete list of every Oregon reference on Carrie & Lowell. If you’re a Sufjan megafan planning a pilgrimage, there are plenty of locales to visit; if you just want to understand the oblique, personal references scattered throughout Carrie & Lowell, this is the place to start.
Death With Dignity: The song’s title is taken from a 1994 act legalizing physician-assisted suicide in the state of Oregon and the organization (The Death With Dignity National Center) founded to pass and support that law.
Should Have Known Better: “I’m bright as the Oregon breeze;” probably a reference to the actual wind, not the Central Oregon Breeze bus service between Central Oregon and Portland.
All Of Me Wants All Of You: “Found myself on Spencer’s Butte;” Spencer’s Butte is the highest point in Eugene, Oregon and a prime hiking locale.
Drawn to the Blood: This is the only song on Carrie & Lowell without any references to Oregon.
Eugene: Emerald Park is located in North Eugene. It is home to an indoor swimming pool, where Sufjan was baptized with “community water.”
Fourth of July: The “Tillamook burn” was a series of fires between 1933 and 1951 that destroyed 355,000 acres of forest in Tillamook State Forest in the Northern Oregon coast range.
The Only Thing: “Sea lion caves in the dark” refers to the Sea Lion Caves, a popular tourist attraction north of Florence, Oregon. One of the largest sea grottos in the world, the caves are home to a large concentration of sea lions and are accessible by elevator.
Carrie & Lowell: “Cottage Grove shade invite me” is appropriate, given that the town of Cottage Grove south of Eugene is known as the “Covered Bridge Capital Of The World.” The reference to a meadowlark, also utilized on “No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross” may refer to the Western Meadowlark being Oregon’s state bird.
John My Beloved: “Painting the hills blue and red” may be a reference to the Painted Hills in Wheeler County, Oregon. The Painted Hills are known for an abundance of mammalian fossils, which Sufjan mentions in the song: “the fossils I find.”
No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross: “the valley of the Dalles” refers to the Dalles, a city in Wasco County in Northern Oregon, situated on the Columbia River.
Blue Bucket Of Gold: The Blue Bucket Mine is a legendary lost gold mine purportedly located somewhere between The Dalles and Vale in Eastern Oregon.