Chicago Farmer

BLOOMINGTON, IL — Some live albums are so good they become the recordings those artists are known for. Frampton Comes Alive and Cheap Trick at Budokan were monster hits and catapulted them to rock superstar status. Cody Diekhoff, too, has big hopes for his first live Chicago Farmer first live album, Quarter Past Tonight, a two-disc set to be independently released Aug. 3. “Folk superstar would be just fine,” Diekhoff says.

A touring musician for 20 years with a quarter century of writing songs under his belt, Diekhoff has seen the type size for his moniker grow steadily larger on festival posters over the years. He called his 21-song 2005 debut album About Time, and the same title would have fit for the new live album, recorded Dec. 1-2, two sold-out nights at the Apollo Theater in Peoria, IL in 2017. This is a solo record with Cody being the only performer, singing and playing guitar as well as harmonica as Chicago Farmer. Fans have requested a live album for years with a love for his stories and banter as much as his songs.

“People for the longest time have been coming up to me at the merch table — ‘What do you have that’s just like what you just did on stage,’” Diekhoff says. “So after a long time of putting it off, I finally did it.”

Quarter Past Tonight is a celebration of a musical career in which he’s recorded five studio albums of Chicago Farmer music, criss-crossed the country playing thousands of shows, and shared stages with Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider, Greg Brown, Greensky Bluegrass, The Wood Brothers, Elizabeth Cook, Wayne Hancock, Del McCoury, and Gene Ween — the last two on the same weekend. It also marks a milestone in his life, coming out just before his 40th birthday. “This is kind of my big tribute to me for sticking around this long,” he says.

Growing up in the tiny Illinois town of Delavan (born the same year Cheap Trick at Budokan was recorded), Diekhoff got the writing bug in high school, translating daydreams into stories. He thought of becoming an English teacher… but then he got a guitar. A friend’s father with a guitar introduced him to the timeless artistry of Hank Williams, and when he moved to Chicago after high school he went to the famed Old Town School of Folk Music to hone his harmonica skills and took a deep dive into work of John Prine and Steve Goodman, giants of the Chicago folk scene. Neil Young, John Fogerty, and Arlo Guthrie were among the other role models Diekhoff turned to as he launched his career.

The storytelling he does came early on, from having to fill a four-hour gig without repeating his songs, so he began crafting elaborate introductions to his songs. “In some cases, I guess the story of the song became more entertaining than some of the songs themselves, so people started reciting and requesting those as well,” he says.

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Chris Harden of The I.V. Labs Studios in Chicago, Quarter Past Tonight offers a greatest-hits retrospective of his work with 32 tracks of stories and songs, including “Watch Doctor,” “Round Table,” and “Postcards” from his debut album, “Illinois Anthem” and “Assembly Line Blues” off of From a Small Town in Illinois [2006], “Weatherman” from Talk of Town [2007], “Workin’ On It” and “Backseat” from Backenforth, IL [2013], and “Rocco N’ Susie” and “Umbrella” from Midwest Side Stories [2016]. The album also features three new original Chicago Farmer songs — “Dirtiest Uniforms,” “$13 Beers,” and “I Need A Hit “— as well as a cover of Backyard Tire Fire’s “Good to Be.”

Quarter Past Tonight is about as authentic as they come. The first disc is the first night’s show, as presented, and disc two documents the second night just as it happened. What’s on those discs is about 98 percent of what he gave the audiences those nights. “We tried to keep it as real as we could,” he says, and that’s his approach to songwriting, too. “Now that I’m older, there’s way more honesty and realness that goes into my songs. Life has happened to me in the last decade, good and bad, and that’s what these songs are about.”

Todd Snider has called Chicago Farmer “the genuine heir to Arlo Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot,” and he’s one of Pokey La Farge’s favorite singers. Accolades like that and the chance to record a double live album have Diekhoff feeling fortunate. He’s grateful for what he’s been able to do, for being able to make his daydreams come true, and yet he wants more, has unfulfilled ambitions and feels no relief from “the creativity bug.”

“My heroes all have their own chapter in the Great American Folk Book. Right now, I have a run-on sentence,” he says. “With this live album, I hope it will turn into a paragraph, and maybe a page, and who knows, maybe a chapter of my own. I’m a quarter century into it and feel my best adventures and songs are yet to come.”

Quarter Past Tonight Track Listing:

Disc One

  1. Dirtiest Uniforms   (4:52) [Previously Unreleased]
  2. Round Table   (4:38)
  3. Pulled Over On 29   (1:29)*
  4. Anymore   (2:54)
  5. Benefits   (1:23)*
  6. Backseat   (7:57)
  7. Assembly Line Blues   (3:23)
  8. $13 Dollar Beers   (3:03) [Previously Unreleased]
  9. Six Records   (1:00)*
  10. Who On Earth   (4:42)
  11. Fall   (4:05)
  12. Illinois Anthem   (4:03)
  13. Jon Stokes Prison Break Blues   (3:34)
  14. People N’ Places   (10:56)
  15. Good To Be   (3:27) [by Edward David Anderson & Backyard Tire Fire]

    Disc Two
  16. I Need A Hit   (5:07) [Previously Unreleased]
  17. Umbrella   (4:55)
  18. We’re All Billy   (:48)*
  19. Quarter Life Crisis   (2:17)*
  20. Watch Doctor   (5:58)
  21. Weatherman   (3:04)
  22. Nostalgia & Folklore   (2:02)*
  23. Postcards   (2:41)
  24. Hats   (3:49)
  25. Workin’ On It   (7:38)
  26. Breaking Bad   (1:57)*
  27. Rocco N’ Susie   (5:55)
  28. Thank You’s   (:45)*
  29. Victoria Walker   (5:13)
  30. Farms & Factories   (4:22)
  31. Won’t Let You Down   (5:04)

17. For Dad (Pool Song)   (8:04)

All tracks FCC clean
*Banter/Story

Artist Update

Chicago Farmer has a truly eclectic style that echoes Arlo Guthrie’s with a contemporary twist, and his storytelling is presented in clear syncopated cadence.” —Americana Highways: Song Premiere of “Dirtiest Uniforms”

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