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Country & Midwestern

Chicago in the History of Country Music and the Folk Revival

By Mark Guarino

Foreword by Robbie Fulks  |  Cover art by Jon Langford  |  The University of Chicago Press

The first book to document nearly 100 years of country and folk music history in Chicago. The result of more than 10 years of research, Country & Midwestern is the untold story of Chicago’s pivotal role as a country and folk music capital. Winner of the 2024 Country Music Book of the Year Award from the International Country Music Conference in Nashville and the 2024 Book of the Year Award from the State of Illinois Historical Society.  Order & learn more.

“A definitive and long-overdue look at a vital if underappreciated thread in how so-called “hillbilly music” evolved and flourished in a seemingly incongruous setting: the hard streets of Chicago.”

– Greg Kot, “Sound Opinions” co-host

“A ruthless researcher and scintillating storyteller, Guarino provides critical context and moving portraits of the pickers, grinners and pioneers who shaped Chicago’s contributions to country and folk. A long overdue but welcome volume that will sit alongside other essential works on the subject, from Bill C. Malone’s Country Music USA to David Hadju’s Positively Fourth Street.”

– Bob Mehr, author of Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements

“It was not only a page turner, but from my experience, your account was right-on-the-nail accurate … The definitive book on the Chicago music scene. It could be the model for other books in other cities.”

– Frank Hamilton, co-founder of the Old Town School of Folk Music

“With an epic scope, gorgeous photographs, and useful discographies, this is a vital contribution to the history of American music and required reading for country and folk music fans.” (Starred Review)

— Freda Love Smith, Booklist

“Remarkable and thrilling … a book exhaustively researched, stylishly written and exciting on every single page.”

– Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune

“Monumental … Music writer Mark Guarino tells a riveting story of the central role that Chicago has played in the development of country and folk music. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of country and folk music.”

– No Depression

“This history of country, folk and beyond is a living, breathing document that offers the heartbeat that made songwriter John Prine an Americana icon, and an alternative country scene that impacts globally.”

— Holly Gleason, editor/contributor of Woman Walk the Line: How the Women of Country Music Changed Our Lives

5 Hot Books: “Guarino’s richly textured cultural history is informed by his instinctive sense of the sounds and lyrics that originated in Chicago’s small taverns and clubs that were an ‘unusual hothouse for creativity,’ crucial to the reinvention of country and folk music.”  

– The National Book Review

“Now, finally, author Mark Guarino chronicles the history of country and folk music in Chicago in his necessary and irresistible book Country and Midwestern.”

—Tamara Saviano, author of Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark

“Country & Midwestern: Chicago in the History of Country Music and the Folk Revival” is Mark Guarino’s smartly-written, surprising puzzle piece of Americana: How Chicago, before Nashville, then later with Wilco and other cross-pollinators, was the quiet engine beneath country music for generations.”

— Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

Mark is currently writing a book for The University of Wisconsin Press.