Falling under the label of a folk singer is sometimes quite limiting. It imposes a vision of one who is lyrically driven, with songs speaking of life in general, the good and bad. There are only so many ways you can go here, and over time most of those areas have been well travelled. Being able to take that label and expound upon it takes a very creative artist. Chicago Farmer has tackled that task well here with "Midwest Side Stories."
Many artists fail to capture the passion or energy when recording folk music. Their live shows can create a strong connection for the listener, while their recordings are lacking. Townes Van Zandt was often in that category. Chicago Farmer, aka Cody Diekhoff, has his own peaks and valleys in this record, but the adventure is well worth the listen.
From his opening song "Umbrella," which relates the story of a singer/songwriter on the road, Chicago Farmer shares his powerful observations of how music impacts life. This life, however, has some interesting twists and turns through the songs shared here. "Revolving Door" along with "Farms and Factories," each utilizes interesting changes in tempo, which can either hit or miss in relating with the listener. In this case, especially with "Revolving Door," it is perhaps too much.
One other nuance utilized by Chicago Farmer throughout is repetition. He tends to repeat the main phrase within a song to drive the point home. This can lead to two possible outcomes, one is the phrase is now stuck in the listeners head for the day, or the listener grows bored and moves on. There is a thin line walked here.
The highlight is "Two Sides of the Story." This song will have you listening again and again. Chicago Farmer digs deep into the psyche lyrically here, in a simple fun way, explaining the division of our country. The acoustic backing is perfect for his vocal prowess, and he truly shines. This song is a true instant classic, that follows suit with another promising song titled "Workin' On It" from his 2013 release "Backenforth, Il."