One of Door County’s favorite artists, Chicago Farmer, brings his Dylanesque songwriting and music to the Door County Brewing Co. Music Hall on Saturday, December 1 at 7 pm. Cody Deikhoff (a/k/a Chicago Farmer), has been called “the working man’s singer/songwriter” and his music has garnered critical acclaim for its empathetic take on life in rural and small-town America. This is a free show in connection with Harbor Holiday.
A touring folk singer for 20 years with a quarter century of writing songs under his belt, Diekhoff is touring to celebrate Chicago Farmer’s first live album, the two-disc set “Quarter Past Tonight.” Fans have requested a live album for years because they love 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, crisscrossed 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.
“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.”
The son of a small town farming community, Cody Diekhoff logged plenty of highway and stage time under the name Chicago Farmer before settling in the city in 2003. Profoundly inspired by fellow midwesterner John Prine, he’s a working-class folk musician to his core. His small town roots, tilled with city streets mentality, are turning heads North and South of I-80.
“I love the energy, music, and creativity of Chicago, but at the same time, the roots and hard work of my small town,” he shares. Growing up in Delavan, Illinois, with a population less than 2,000, Diekhoff’s grandparents were farmers, and their values have always provided the baseline of his songs.
He writes music for “the kind of people that come to my shows. Whether in Chicago or Delavan, everyone has a story, and everyone puts in a long day and works hard the same way,” he says. “My generation may have been labeled as slackers, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t work hard – many people I know put in 50-60 hours a week and 12 hour days. That’s what keeps me playing. I don’t like anyone to be left out; my music is for everyone in big and very small towns.”
He listened to punk rock and grunge as a kid before discovering a friend’s dad playing Hank Williams, and it was a revelation. Prine and Guthrie quickly followed. The name Chicago Farmer was originally for a band, but the utilitarian life of driving alone from bar to bar, city to city – to make a direct connection to his audience and listener, took a deeper hold.