Words and Photos by: Jerry Friend
Tyler Childers brought along a band of long time friends from the early days of his music career in his home state Kentucky with him to Raleigh to perform to a crowd of adoring fans of all ages. It was a scorching day but that didn't seem to slow the fans down who turned out early for two opening acts, who were both also from Kentucky. Abby Hamilton, a singer songwriter hailing from Nicholasville Kentucky, opened up the show with a folk/rock/country styled set to get things started.
Next up was S.G. Goodman, also from Kentucky who didn't have to warm up an already close to being overheated crowd, but that didn't seem to dampen their enthusiasm for her performance which kept the energy level rising as the fans who had showed up on one of the dog days of Summer to see Tyler listened to Goodman talk about her song Space and Time and how Childers contacted her, asking to perform it and she declared to him that she really was hoping that Dolly Parton would be the one who she had in mind for it, but told Tyler, that he needed to have his people reach out to Dolly's people and how she was still waiting to hear back from them about that, but we know that she granted his request. Goodman writes songs about modern small towns and the troubles that can be found with Religion and hypocrisy, economic ruin, lost love, and desperation yet somehow finds a way to remain hopeful to for a new vision of a more progressive South.
Tyler Childers, who has rapidly become another favorite export from the Bourbon state, took the stage and the fans erupted with applause as he and his band walked out to a space which was decorated with small animals, plants and trees as if the band was in a woodland setting. Tyler spoke to the crowd about how he was now touring with musicians that he used to play with early on in his musical career at local clubs and was happy to be on the road with people that he loved. These remarks likely were related to when Tyler recorded some of the records that helped to to propel his career early on onto the national stage with studio musicians.
He also apologized early on about not feeling well due to a head cold but he was going to do his best to carry on as the medicine took. He came out swinging with one of his earliest hits Whitehouse Road and the crowd jumped right in to singing on a night which turned into a series of sing a longs. The band played the Hank WIlliams cover The Old Country Church next followed by Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven. The venue was busting at the seams with fans. I don't recall ever seeing so many people on the lawn, all standing like sardines packed into the overflow spaces. From my view every seat from those in the first rows to the very back of the venue was mostly unused as the crowd stood up instead with people only wandering off for cold beverages or a quick trip to the bathrooms.
The night continued with more singing along from fans with Country Squire, and then another one of his biggest hits All Your'n. Tyler launched into a series of solo songs, including another cover of Utah Phillips Rock Salt & Nails followed by another hit Nose on the Grindstone, Lady May, (his wife is Senora May) and Follow you to Virgie, before he went into his most recent fan favorite, In Your Love, which recently had a video released that is set in the 1950s and depicts a story about a gay relationship between two coal miners who find the love of their lives after they met down in the mines who struggle with the fears of homophobic violence from members of there community, but they find a way to move on and live in happiness until the relationship suffers a tragic end when one of the men dies from black lung. This song is seen by some as an allyship with those facing homophobic backlashes and by others as being provacative and political from artists that they wish would just write and sing good songs One thing we all can agree on is that the controversy over the song and video will attract a lot of attention.
Tyler Childers easily held the crowds attention and gathered their affection for his song writing style that draws from the well of his Lawrence Kentucky life where his father worked in the coal industry and his mother was a nurse. He learned to sing in his church choir. When he was only 13 years old he started to play guitar and write songs He graduated high school in Johnson County where fellow country musicians Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle and Chris Stapleton also hail from.
Childers began performing music in Lexington Kentucky and in Huntington, West Virginia when he was 19 years old, back in 2011. Early on his backing band was called The Food Stamps, and his national success began with his release called Purgatory in 2017 this record along with with his another big record Country Squire were produced Sturgil Simpson and David Ferguson out of Nashville. In September of 2018 Tyler won Emerging Artist of the Year Award at the Americana Music Honors & Awards where his acceptance speech where he corticalized the Americana genre saying "as a man that identifies as a country music singer, I feel that Americana ain't no part of nothing and is a distraction from the issues that we're facing on a bigger level as country music singers, it kind of feels like purgatory" One of his songs from the record Country Squire earned Childers a Grammy nomination for the single All Your'n for Best Country Solo Performance.
In 2020 Tyler released Long Violent History, an album of mostly fiddle tracks, and the title track discusses racism, civil unrest, and police brutality. He released a video message to accompany the song where he discussed his intention for the album in general and the title track in particular where he calls for empathy above all else and explained that profits from the record will support undeserved communities in the Appalachian region through the Childers' Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund.
He then also released a triple album Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven that was divided into three parts, Hallelujah, Jubilee, and Joyful Noise. The songs on the record were presented in three different ways for these parts for example the added he added adding layers of instruments from one version to the next. This record reached number 8 on the Billboard charts which became Childers first top ten album on the Billboard 200.
Tyler's latest record is titled Rustin' In The Rain is due to be released on September 8th.
The Old Country Church
(Hank Williams cover)
Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?
I Swear (to God)
Rock Salt & Nails
(Utah Phillips cover) (Solo)
Nose on the Grindstone
Follow You to Virgie
In Your Love
Honky Tonk Flame
Way of the Triune God