Country & Midwestern Blog2023-02-11T04:16:13+00:00

The Country & Midwestern Blog

Talking “Bruised Orange” with Hank Neuberger

John Prine's 1978 album "Bruised Orange" is considered his second best album next to his debut. Unlike most of his records, "Bruised Orange" was recorded entirely in Chicago with an all-Chicago cast of musicians and studio talent, including Steve Goodman who served as producer. On board was Hank Neuberger who engineered and mixed "Bruised Orange" — Hank is a Grammy-nominated producer with a long list of credits [...]

By |December 25, 2023|

Revisiting Michael P. Smith

A week ago a group of 10 Chicago songwriters played to a capacity room at the Hideout in a celebration of the late Michael P. Smith. Michael died in 2020 at age 78; he left behind a songbook of richly poetic songs that blend lyrical poetry, dry wit, and a journalist's eye for detail. His songs were recorded the most by Steve Goodman, although many others, from [...]

By |December 25, 2023|

No Depression Names Country Midwestern Among Best of 2023

Thanks, No Depression for naming "Country and Midwestern" as one of the "12 Memorable Music Books of 2023" -- putting me in the fine company of Sly Stone, Lucinda Williams, and the wonderful Holly Gleason! "Monumental ... essential reading for anyone interested in the history of country and folk music." Read the full round-up here!

By |December 25, 2023|

Country and Midwestern in Nashville

Country and Midwestern found a home at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville in October! I appeared on a special panel focused on John Prine’s tenure in Chicago. The discussion featured CMHOF’s RJ Smith, Chicago singer-songwriter Bonnie Koloc, and Greg Cahill of Special Consensus. Greg and Bonnie both performed. Also on the panel was Fiona Prine, John’s wife, and Jody Whelan of Oh Boy Records. We had a great time discussing the role Chicago [...]

By |December 25, 2023|

Country and Midwestern Heads to the Country Music Hall of Fame!

This weekend, Country and Midwestern is headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville! On Sunday (Oct. 8) I’m appearing on a special panel discussion focused on John Prine’s tenure in Chicago. “Prine Time Chicago,” is part of You Got Gold, a three-day celebration (Oct. 7-10) of John to benefit the Hello in There Foundation operated by the Prine family. Named after John’s [...]

By |November 9, 2023|

NewCity Names Me to Lit List; Revisiting John Cohen From 2014

In late July I learned that I was named to the annual Lit 50 2023 list published by New City, Chicago’s long-running arts magazine. The issue is now on the streets! Thank you, writer Mary Wisniewski and publishers Brian and Jan Hieggelke. We had the photo shoot at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. It’s quite an honor to be among such [...]

By |August 22, 2023|

John Prine Explains the Origin of “Lake Marie”

Country and Midwestern hit the surrounding suburbs in recent weeks. First was in neighboring Oak Park, a town mentioned many times in its pages due to its importance in, among other things, launching the Old Town School of Folk Music. Songwriter Mark Dvorak led the conversation at the Oak Park River Forest Museum to a full house. Besides leading a riveting and fun talk, Mark got everyone singing! A former teacher at [...]

By |August 5, 2023|

WGN Television Talks Country

This week I was a guest on the WGN Midday News to talk about Country and Midwestern. It was fun to be in the same studio that brought the world Bozo's Circus, what can I say? Thank you WGN for taking care of me. You can watch the segment here. Thanks Milwaukee, New Orleans, Chicago Country and Midwestern on the road recently, visiting bookstores and clubs in Milwaukee, New Orleans, [...]

By |July 3, 2023|

Chicago Tribune Raves

Rick Kogan gave Country and Midwestern a glowing review a few Sundays ago in the Chicago Tribune. Read it here. Rick called the book “spectacular” and that “the book will thrill any music fan … and give readers a greater appreciation of the heart and resilience and creativity of this city and its ability to sustain and nurture those talented to persevere.” The review is validating because Rick, a cherished figure in Chicago [...]

By |June 3, 2023|

Country and Midwestern at the Park West

Beeline to the Park West this Monday where I’ll be in conversation with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis of Sound Opinions. We’ll discuss country music’s long history in Chicago and Robbie Fulks, who wrote the foreword, will be looped into the conversation. Once that finishes, Robbie will play a full set with his new band! The Chicago Humanities Festival is producing the entire affair, which also means I am now about one degree of separation from Susanna Hoffs, who [...]

By |May 7, 2023|

Country and Midwestern: Out Today! Plus, a History of the National Recovery Act

Country and Midwestern is here Welcome to the latest newsletter for Country and Midwestern: Chicago in the History of Country Music and the Folk Revival, published by the University of Chicago Press. (You can learn everything about the book via its own website.) The book is officially in stores, physical and virtual, today! About 10-plus years ago I decided to sit down and write a proposal for a book that would [...]

By |April 24, 2023|

Country and Midwestern: Out Next Week! Plus, the Newly-Discovered WLS Barn Dance Photos

Cue Country and Midwestern A week from Monday is the “official” release date (April 24) for Country and Midwestern (University of Chicago Press), although pre-orders are being fulfilled as I write this. It's also showing up in bookstores, from Women & Children First on Chicago's North Side to 57th Street Books on the South Side. Thank you to everyone who purchased the books months or weeks in advance, and who [...]

By |April 24, 2023|

Country and Midwestern: A new website. A first review. Events for spring/summer!

Hello Again! Welcome to the second installment of this newsletter, primed with the latest (and greatest?) news regarding COUNTRY AND MIDWESTERN: CHICAGO IN THE HISTORY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AND THE FOLK REVIVAL, out in April. Country and Midwestern Gets Its Own Website! The Internet would never lie. Country and Midwestern is indeed now the subject of its own website. Click through early and often to learn the [...]

By |February 21, 2023|

Welcome to Country and Midwestern

Hello and Happy New Year! If you are reading this, it means you are someone I interviewed over the phone, in a coffeeshop, at your kitchen table, in your living room, or backstage at a club. Or you are someone who helped point me a direction, lent me some research, told me a story, or simply gave me encouragement — All in the years-long effort to complete: [...]

By |February 9, 2023|
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