Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Chicago Farmer

  • Quarter Past Tonight [, 2018] A-
  • Flyover Country [Chicago Farmer, 2020] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Quarter Past Tonight [, 2018]
I'd never heard of transplanted son of the soil Cody Dieckhoff and you probably haven't either. But this tenth-anniversary double-live, 24 songs and eight spoken bits that include a tribute to his heroically supportive wife entitled "Benefits," documents the Chicago-based singer-songwriter's sold-out weekend at the world-famous, 3000-capacity Apollo Theater--in Peoria, Illinois. Dieckhoff isn't as sharp as his hero John Prine--one disc at a time will do. But he's funny, he's kind, and he's preparing an instructional video about "how do you get that drawl that you do--it's kind of a mix between a small-town big-city kind of a northernly southernly easterly westerly stuck-in-the-middle type of a drawl." And if you grant that his DIY life touring the Midwest in his heroically supportive van is very nearly as hard as the lives of the fans he says put in 40 or 50 less colorful hours every week, he never stops thinking about class, which is why he brushes off an admirer who tells him that if he'd "leave out the politics" he'd move twice as many records (raising his nightly sales to 12, the merch guy in him calculates). Dieckhoff assumes most of his fans are Democrats but welcomes Republicans, and why shouldn't he--not even a Republican could leave a Chicago Farmer show meaner than when he or she walked in. And ask yourself this: how many musicians have the consciousness to employ the square, tired-ass, polarizing terms "Democrat" and "Republican" at all? Only some kind of northernly southernly easterly westerly stuck-in-the-middle visionary. A-

Flyover Country [Chicago Farmer, 2020]
With Band of Heathens' committed backup compensating for the two songs repeated from his 2018 live double, Cody Dieckhoff divides this album into sections of three and seven tracks that signal a turn with "$13 Beers," now the best song on two darn good albums in a row. The first part comprises the lively driving song "Indiana Line," the darker grounded song "Flyover Country," and the mysterious songpoem "Mother Nature's Daughter" before "13 Beers" steers the songs more literal, political, and comic while putting in a good word for Robbie Fulks. Don't miss "All in One Place," where a working-class road musician jokes around about how much money he doesn't make. Also don't miss "Collars," proof if you need it that he gets how much heart it takes to treat money as a joke in flyover country. A-