Chicago’s hidden country music is worth the search
CHICAGO – Open the scruffy front door of a drab-looking corner tavern in Chicago on Friday evenings and suddenly you’re in Texas, greeted by the rowdy twang of a genuine honky tonk band. Cowboy-booted couples of all ages two-step around the dimly lit scuffed wooden dance floor to the likes of Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, or one of the band’s own drinking songs. “If I’m Not Drunk, I’m Not Drinking Today” is a crowd favorite.
In a city better known for the rarified sounds of a world-class symphony and legendary jazz and blues, there’s a lively but almost hidden country music scene in Chicago.
This isn’t the Nashville top 40 or overproduced pablum that you hear on commercial radio, or pay top-dollar to see in cavernous arenas. It’s more old-timey country music, from honky-tonk to Rockabilly and Western Swing, and it’s being resurrected by talented local bands like the five-man Hoyle Brothers, in otherwise nondescript venues like the Empty Bottle on Chicago’s Western Avenue.
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