This is COUNTRY Music

Most of the music called “country music” today bears little to no resemblance whatsoever to what the music sounded like for most of the previous 90-plus years.  When someone says they’re going to a “country music” concert they mean they’re going to see a pop singer (Taylor Swift), a rock act (for some reason people think Lynyrd Skynyrd is “country” now), or even rap (commonly called “hick-hop”).  

When I stepped inside Chicago’s Empty Bottle bar on the evening of Friday, January 1 2016, however, I heard real country music, thanks to Chicago’s Hoyle Brothers.

Things such as a steel guitar, two-stepping to a Ray Price tune, and a total stranger asking for a dance are things more suited to a Texas honky tonk than a Chicago bar.  Given Chicago's great diversity, however (everything from blues icon Muddy Waters to folk legend John Prine to FM rockers Styx came from Chicago), it really shouldn't be a surprise that a visitor could find a country band.

What is surprising, though, is that this is real country music.

Two Hours of Honky Tonk

The Hoyle BrothersCredit: c.2016 KFRaizor (FourWalls)

The Hoyle Brothers opened their nearly two-hour set (divided into two sets) with George Jones' classic "The Race Is On," staying true to the Jones version (instead of "rocking it up" the way acts like the Georgia Satellites or Sawyer Brown did in their recorded covers).   Lead singer Myles McVeigh is Irish, but you'd never know it as he sang country classics ranging from Ernest Tubb's "Thanks a Lot" to Don Williams' "Amanda" to Ray Price's "Crazy Arms."

They don't focus solely on the "old-timers," though.  There are several current singers (none of whom you'll hear on the radio), such as Dale Watson and Dwight Yoakam, who are still carrying on the traditions started by Marty, Hank, and Lefty, who were represented in the band's set.  It was during one of those songs -- Dale Watson's "I Lie When I Drink" -- that a total stranger came over and asked me for a dance.  I have two left feet, but we managed to keep in step while singing along to the perfect cover of the Texas maverick's best-known song.

I have a lot of friends in Chicago who've recommended this band to me.  I'm glad I finally got to see them perform!