Reviewed by Mae Hunt
Chicago Farmer’s Flyover Country has a classic, honky tonk sound that shares relatable stories geared towards our nation’s working class. The album reminds me of the phrase work hard, play hard – so many of the lyrics share stories of folks spending days working and nights letting loose. At first listen, it’s a folk-filled, southern album that will undoubtedly spark a singalong. But each time I listen, I dig up more pockets of cleverness that further convince me of Chicago Farmer’s (AKA Cody Diekhoff) lyrical and poetic ingenuity!
Let’s start with the fun stuff – there is no shortage of creativity and humor in these songs. The album begins with Indiana Line, a twangy narrative about a guy whose road-tripping from Illinois to Indiana to pay off his debts. Diekhoff leads the song on vocals and acoustic, while harmonicas, keys, bass, and drums swing alongside Diekhoff’s confident voice. As the song continues, the character’s swagger diminishes along with the likelihood of him paying off his debts. By the end of the song, he’s being chased by flashing lights, suggesting he won’t reach his destination. A true singalong song, Indiana Line is a great start to the album.
All in One Place is another upbeat track about someone counting up their money after a long day’s work and blowing it in one place (probably a bar). Despite the light-heartedness, there’s an underlying feeling of frustration from an inability to get ahead financially. It was clearly written with heart and directed towards those who make less than they deserve. If you can’t already tell, a common theme throughout this album is making (and spending) money.
Another standout is $13 Beers, which I imagine will give just about anybody a good laugh. This song tells the story of a man who, after a long week of work, wants to get good and drunk. But, Diekhoff sings: “when I stepped inside I began to shed a tear when I read a sign that said 13 dollar beers.” This relatable song has a bluegrass country feel paired with a strong distaste for overpriced drinks.
Despite the obvious humor, $13 Beers (along with others including Collars and Dirtiest Uniform) opens the door for a real conversation on gentrification and comparing white collar America versus blue collar America. The entire album includes frequent but tactful commentary on the economic divide in our nation. Chicago Farmer makes a potentially controversial issue non-divisive because…well, who wants to pay 13 dollars for a beer?
The album’s versatile, as some songs (like Indiana Line) are perfect for kicking off the weekend, while others (like Collars) are more reflective. All of them share an underlying appreciation for living and working in the south and all that comes with it. Ultimately, Chicago Farmer unveils a true appreciation for the flyover country – or the middle states that many Americans (especially wealthy Americans) only see when flying from coast to coast.