Ben Miller Band

Harmonica Dunn Presents:

Ben Miller Band

Chicago Farmer

Sat, February 3, 2018

Doors: 8:30 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Schubas

Chicago, IL

$15.00

This event is 21 and over

Ben Miller Band
Ben Miller Band
Ben Miller – vocals/guitar/banjo
Scott Leeper – one-string washtub bass
Doug Dicharry – drums/trombone/trumpet/mandolin/electric washboard/spoons

"I like the idea of saying something very complicated in a very simple way," says Ben Miller, discussing the trio that bears his name. "That's what we strive for musically, and what I strive for lyrically—to get directly to the point and save the flowery b.s. for the romantic poets. John Sargent, the painter, said 'That which is not necessary is detrimental,' and we try to live by that."

Since its formation in 2004, the Ben Miller Band has staked out a singular niche that's established the Joplin, Missouri threesome as both a potent creative force and a perennial fan favorite. Any Way, Shape or Form, the BMB's New West debut release, showcases the seasoned threesome's fierce creative spirit and infectious performing chemistry, as well as Miller's melodically catchy, lyrically resonant songwriting.

On Any Way, Shape or Form, the Ben Miller Band channels a century's worth of wide-ranging influences into 13 new songs that radiate with energy, smarts and soul. The result is music that's wholly contemporary, while ringing with ages-old echoes of bluegrass, delta blues, Appalachian mountain music and more. A stew they lovingly call “ozark stomp.”

Miller writes roots-rocking barnburners ("The Outsider," "Burning Building"), thoughtful ballads ("I Feel for You," "Prettiest Girl") and left-field departures ("23 Skidoo") with melodic skill and lyrical insight, and the band elucidates them with urgency and eloquence. While those tunes show off Miller's songwriting craftsmanship, a memorable workout on the traditional "The Cuckoo" underlines the band's interpretive abilities.

The hard working threesome has already won a substantial—and still-growing—grassroots fan base through old-fashioned ingenuity and an unstinting work ethic. Their D.I.Y. success helped to win the band its current deal with New West, and led to some high profile touring with ZZ Top, thanks to the enthusiastic patronage of avowed fan Billy Gibbons. Opening for ZZ Top on a 2013 tour of Europe, the humble BMB wowed unfamiliar crowds on stages in large halls and arenas, including a triumphant set at the fabled Montreaux Jazz Festival.

The Ben Miller Band's homespun, self-reliant approach extends to the lo-tech, and largely self-built, instruments that the members play on stage and in the studio, e.g. singer-songwriter Miller's thrift-shop guitars and banjos, bassist Scott Leeper's one-string washtub bass – comprised of a weedeater string attached to a wooden pole – and Doug Dicharry's varied arsenal: trombone, trumpet, mandolin, electric washboard and electric spoons.

The band's use of offbeat instrumentation, however, shouldn't be misunderstood as a gimmick. Instead, the three bandmates have mastered the technical challenges of their unconventional axes to produce a uniquely evocative ensemble sound that offers a compelling frame for Miller's compositions.

"What I really care about is songs, and the rest of it is just a vehicle to get you to that destination," Miller asserts, adding, "Just because we use junk to make music doesn't mean we aren't serious about it."

"Our sound," Dicharry notes, "is something that we never thought much about. It's just something that kept growing without us really trying, and at some point we realized it sounded pretty cool."

"The instruments that we use ," Miller explains, "were originally born out of necessity, because we didn't have any money. People would give us their old gear that didn't work anymore, and we'd wire things together and try things out in different permutations and see where it led us. Through a lot of trial and error, we arrived at the set up that we've got now. Blazing your own trail through the jungle can take a lot of extra time and effort, but it gives you a chance to end up in a place that nobody's been to before."

That sense of musical adventure has long driven Miller and this bandmates from the start. Growing up in rural Curlew, Washington, Miller began playing guitar at 16, turning his back on a promising career as a visual artist to pursue his passion for music. He gained experience busking and performing in open mic nights while roadtripping around America, and during an extended stint in Eastern Europe.

Miller eventually found kindred spirits in bassist Scott Leeper, who'd been playing since the age of seven and had performed with his family's band, in a duo with his brother, as a one-man country act and in a variety of blues combos; and Doug Dicharry, a musical omnivore and multi-instrumentalist, who can play nearly any instrument and has played in a wide array of projects from noise bands to ska and rock.

The three like-minded players joined forces, and soon their diligent touring regimen allowed them to conquer an ever-widening geographical base and win a loyal live audience. In 2012, the Ben Miller Band took its first tentative steps in the recording studio, resulting in the embryonic self-released CD Heavy Load, which attracted a good deal of fan praise and critical acclaim despite its humble origins.

The same maverick spirit that motivated the BMB's early musical adventures came into play in the recording Any Way, Shape or Form, which they cut with seasoned producer Vance Powell, who's renowned for his studio work with the likes of Jack White, Buddy Guy, Wanda Jackson, Willie Nelson and Kings of Leon.

"Our original plan," Leeper notes, "was to scale it down a bit, and have it be even less produced than the first one. It came out sounding like us, which is all we really want."

"It was the first time we'd really had a producer/engineer," Dicharry notes, adding "It felt like we could finally breathe, because Vance was on top of things and got some really cool textures. We had a lot of confidence in him, so we were comfortable just going in and laying it down."

"We wanted to keep it as live as possible," Miller asserts, "so we recorded it live and did lots of takes, on average around thirty takes before we felt we really nailed it down. That was important to us because we’ve been a live band for our whole career and we wanted that to come across in the recordings, that feeling of guys playing in a space together. We worked long days in the studio for about a month, just playing the songs over and over and working to push our performances and maintain the energy of what we do.”

With Any Way, Shape or Form encapsulating the Ben Miller Band's salient qualities, the three intrepid bandmates are eager to hit the road and bring their new songs to live crowds around the nation and around the world.

"Our plan," Leeper says, "is to just get out there and play for as many people as we can. That's pretty much been our plan all along, and it's worked for us so far."

"The title Any Way, Shape or Form is sort of our way of saying that by any means necessary we will make the music that makes sense to us,” Miller explains. “That’s always been our attitude, and that’s how we’ve gotten to where we are and how we will get to where we are going.”
Chicago Farmer
Chicago Farmer
BLOOMINGTON, IL — Chicago Farmer, the moniker Bloomington, Illinois’ Cody Diekhoff performs and writes under, is set to independently release his 7th album titled Midwest Side Stories on September 30, 2016. Midwest Side Stories is about hope, depression, job loss, meth, skateboards, a divided nation, used cars, the late shift, farms, factories, the destruction of our environment, and still being around to sing about it. The new release contains ten tracks all of which were written by Diekhoff (pronounced dee-cough), with the exception of the John Hartford classic “I’m Still Here.”

Folk hero Todd Snider says, “I love Chicago Farmer’s singing and playing and songs, but it’s the intention behind the whole of his work that moves me to consider him the genuine heir to Arlo Guthrie or Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He knows the shell game that goes on under folk music… which is sacred to me. Chicago Farmer is my brother; if you like me, you’ll love him.”

Lyrically driven, Chicago Farmer delves into the social and political issues of today’s world, taking it all in and putting it back out through music as a commentary on modern times in the Midwest. With his unfeigned and relatable approach, Chicago Farmer has earned a place in the heart of this generation’s rise of protest songs. He composes music written and sung by and for the working man, the “regular person”, bringing to mind modern day folk tales.

“I arrived here, kicking and screaming the day that I took the stage, I went searching for some kind of meaning, like words looking for a page. Came up empty and full of worry that nothing could cover the pain, then these songs and stories began unfolding like an umbrella in the rain.” This is the opening stanza to the first song “Umbrella”, a song that speaks of the power of music in people’s lives and is dedicated to songwriters everywhere, including many of whom we’ve lost in 2016.

With heartfelt observations of the world around him, Chicago Farmer has been around the folk scene for a while now singing the stories he has written along the way, aiming to capture the essence of the human condition and putting it all on display. He has gotten to know a variety of players over the years and brought together a wonderful cast of musicians to perform on the album. Diekhoff co-produced Midwest Side Stories, with engineer Chris Harden at I.V. Labs Studios in Chicago, Illinois. Harden also played Glockenspiel and harmonized vocals on select tracks. Others on the album include vocalist and guitarist Ernie Hendrickson, drummer Darren Garvey, vocalist Heather Horton, and a handful of other Midwestern mainstays.

Cody has his finger on the pulse of middle America. Coming from a long line of family farmers and factory workers in central Illinois and growing up in a rural farming community has inspired many songs that are autobiographical in nature. Farms & Factories” is a workgrass song featuring fiddle, tempo changes, and the farming side of Chicago Farmer. In 2002 he moved up north to the big city where he came up with the name Chicago Farmer for what was initially intended to be a band, but ended up keeping the name for himself and started writing and recording albums. Eventually he moved back in 2008 to central Illinois where he makes his home in Bloomington. The Midwest is where he was born and raised. It’s where he first started to write poetry and where he would eventually set those words into motion with his guitar.

With Midwest Side Stories Chicago Farmer builds an adventurous narrative that brings issues to the front burner with folk/protest songs. “Two Sides of the Story” is an acoustically portrayed glimpse of the evolving division in the United States. It takes aim at the media, politics, and religion’s role in that division. “There’s two sides to every story, there’s two sides to every town, the side of town that tells the story. The side where the story went down.”

An upbeat electric working class protest song, “Revolving Door,” describes manufacturing job loss in the Midwest with howling vocals, a driving beat, and ripping harmonica. “My home state of Illinois continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the region, and manufacturing jobs continue to disappear.” Cody says, ”Politicians who work the current system to benefit themselves and their constituencies have sold out these industries and workers. While the CEO’s of these companies hand out pink slips to their workforce, they continue to hand themselves bonuses.”

“9pm to 5” examines the plight of the working American and pays tribute to those with unconventional work hours. At other times Chicago Farmer goes tongue-in-cheek with “Skateboard Song” which takes listeners on a ride with this folk story song, questioning our laws and priorities.

Midwest Side Stories is a follow up to 2013’s Backenforth, IL which rose to #33 on the Americana Charts as well as top #10 on several folk charts. Honest Tune wrote of it, “You can smell the dirt in the fields, hear the wind as it blows across the plains, and see the people that Chicago Farmer sings about. Each track captures a moment in time, whether for a person or a particular place. Imagine if a John Steinbeck short story had been written as a song, and this will give you a fairly good idea as to what Chicago Farmer accomplishes on his albums.”

Chicago Farmer is ready to kick down some more doors and put something new in as many ears, hands, living rooms, and car stereos as possible. Midwest Side Stories is available now on pre-order on Kickstarter and folks that donate will receive it at their doorstep several weeks before the official release. “We’ve set our goal at $20… because we love you.” Cody says, “My last album has a song called The Twenty Dollar Bill. It’s easily one of my top 3 requested songs, I especially love that it’s requested by people of all ages. It’s a story song inspired my grandparents and I’ve been told has moved a lot of people. We put a lot of heart, soul, sweat, tears, and even some blood into making this album. While the basics are covered, we still have a large hill to climb and any support that you can offer is greatly appreciated”

Midwest Side Stories captures everything that Chicago Farmer is capable of as a performer, songwriter and story teller. He draws you in with the emotion in his voice and holds you captive with the lyrical pictures he paints about the real struggle the common man is up against.
Venue Information:
Schubas
3159 N. Southport
Chicago, IL, 60657
http://www.schubas.com/