Chicago Farmer (aka Cody Diekhoff) has the novelist's gift of building a suspenseful story to a surprising conclusion. He's clever, insightful, and witty with his between songs banter, making the stories often every bit as good and memorable as his songs. That's why his loyal fans have been demanding that he make live album for years. So, he doubled the ante and is releasing "Quarter Past Tonight," culled from two sold out solo shows at the Apollo Theater in Peoria, Ill. in December 2017.
At heart, Diekhoff is a classic folk singer, who takes his inspiration from fellow Midwesterners John Prine and Steve Goodman with nods to John Fogerty, Neil Young and Arlo Guthrie along the way. His trademark appeal is his ability to sing about the regular person, the working person, in a relatable way. I can compare my reclusive neighbors to "Rocco N' Susie" in the song of the same name with lines like, "When they'd go out to get the morning paper, Rocco and Susie would wave" or "But the neighborhood hardly saw 'em, except when they took out the trash."
Bitter sarcasm and political statements, requisite traits for folk singers, mark much of his catalog, but he mostly refrains from those here in favor of working class stories and his own journey as a troubadour.
The album offers a greatest-hits retrospective of Chicago Farmer's authentic songs and stories with 32 tracks that mix each, staying true to the sequence of each show. They include "Watch Doctor," "Round Table," and "Postcards" from his debut album "Illinois Anthem" and "Assembly Line Blues" of "From a Small Town in Illinois" (2006), "Weatherman" from "Talk of the Town" (2007), "Workin' On It" and "Backseat from "Backenforth, IL" (2013) and the aforementioned as well as "Umbrella" from "Midwest Side Stories" (2016). Three songs are in the mix - "Dirtiest Uniforms," "$13 Beers" and "I Need a Hit."
The issue, of course, with a selection of "greatest hits" is the omission of some terrific songs when the artist has an extensive catalog like Diekhoff does. "The Twenty Dollar Bill," from "Backenforth, IL" and "Two Sides of the Story from "Midwest Side Stories" as among Chicago Farmer's best, but omitted. Nonetheless, when high profile artists like Bruce Springsteen sing about the working class, they get plenty of attention. Chicago Farmer is an important voice as well. Lend him your ears.