Rick Kogan gave Country and Midwestern a glowing review a few Sundays ago in the Chicago TribuneRead 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 journalism for his decades of work documenting the city’s people and politics, knew the people I write about intimately. He grew up in Old Town, the son of another cherished Chicago journalist: Herman Kogan. Studs Terkel, Win Stracke, Nelson Algren, and many other writers and artists hung out in their house. Rick has carried their spirit forward for years.

Win Stracke is a central figure to my book. To read Rick say I brought him “vividly to life” is meaningful because I spent years researching Win’s life and found him one of the most compelling Chicago figures of the last century.

My hope with the book was always to do justice to musicians like Win who may not have become “stars,” but who contributed greatly to the national story of old songs traveling through time to arrive in the modern day. He was a major figure of his day.

Anyway, you can get to know someone through their letters, music, and the stories of people they knew and loved, and hope you got it right. Knowing that Rick saw and heard in my book the Win he knew is hugely satisfying. Thank you, Rick.

I also appeared for an unprecedented 90 MINUTES on WGN, talking with Rick about the book, among many other things. Listen to the full interview here.

Country and Midwestern on WBEZ

Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons, the morning show on WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR outlet, invited me into the studio the other week. I was joined by Jane Baxter-Miller, one-half of the Texas Rubies, an influential country duo that emerged in Chicago in the early 1990s. Also in the conversation was Robbie Fulks, the great country singer-songwriter who was playing a sold-out show at Evanston’s SPACE that night. Robbie also wrote the foreword to the book.

The conversation was turned into a podcast that you can stream here. I appreciate the compelling questions, and also the variety of music that the show played during breaks.

Speaking of Jane, the Texas Rubies are reuniting for a special Country and Midwestern event at the Hideout in June! Learn more about it here.

Thanks to Mike Stephens who had me on his great podcast, Outside the Loop, the other week. Stream it here. Thanks, Mike!

Park West, a Dream

Country and Midwestern kicked off with a special Chicago Humanities Festival event at the Park West. What a night! The Park West is a big deal for me, having seen everyone from Bob Dylan to Patti Smith to members of Talking Heads to, why yes, Sir George Martin!

Greg and Jim of Sound Opinions treated the audience to a rigorous conversation that culminated with a full set by Robbie Fulks and his band. Books sold and I signed until none were left. The Park West staff, booksellers, band, and festival organizers couldn’t have been nicer. Lucky me.

Cleveland Rocked

By now, people in Cleveland probably curse the name Ian Hunter every time an out-of-towner says their town “rocks.” I can’t help it — It did!

I showed up a few short days after the Park West to visit Visible Voice Books in the lovely Tremont neighborhood — Think every quaint neighborhood in Chicago before mega-developers ruined them with McMansions 10-plus years ago! Count me as a fan.

Thanks to everyone at the store, particularly Franklin of Dollar Store who spun the most interesting, and obscure, country 45s before our conversation that was a deep dive into the many stories in this book. Check out his podcast here.