by Robert Dean
I don’t know much about Tyler Childers. What I do know about him, is he’s downright haunting. Thanks to the venerable W.B. Walker’s Old Soul Radio Show, AKA the best country podcast out there, I stumbled upon Tyler and I ain’t been right since. I know he’s from somewhere between the hollers of Kentucky and the miasma of West Virginia. I know he writes songs that come out of a shotgun like rock salt and nails. I know he’s someone you need to hear.
Tyler Childers’ songs are stripped down and simple, but they burn so real. So hot like a flashbulb, trying desperately the capture the truth of a life lived hard. That’s what appeals to me about Tyler Childers: his obsession with unearthing his skeletons, thus knocking the dirt off mine, too. I have a religious devotion to folks who can take my demons and make them their own, to give credence to what we may feel on the inside, yet broadcast differently to everyone else. That’s the mark of a true artist: their ability to lay a dagger into the heart with little effort, other than being themselves and telling their story.
Nose on The Grindstone aches with personal pain. It hits hard like a southern gothic by Flannery O’Conner or Cormac McCarthy. It was my favorite song of 2016 with a bullet. Having lost a cousin to pills, and family up in the Tennessee mountains causing all kinds of trouble, it struck as true as an arrow can. Hearing the poetry of a broken handed life isn’t just blue collar, it’s an element of humanity we know, but we need to accept as gospel if only to admit we’re far from perfect, even if we’re different.
You yearn for more of Tyler’s unease, but he’s a bastard like that – you can’t buy any vinyl, you can’t find any cd’s. His stuff is super hard to come by. He’s on YouTube. You can download a few tracks, but he’s not as available as some, and it only makes his ghostly allure that much more enticing. If there were any justice in this world, Tyler’s music would have been a centerpiece of the show Justified.
Whitehouse Road is another that just slays. So many moments of personal distress boiled down and into a slurry that’s a bitter, yet powerful pill. Given the new climate in America where we all hate one another, Tyler Childers’ time is now. He’s one of those rare voices that lays a hand and offers a sense of solace and relatable pain. When a lot of singers step into their boots, trying to find their voices, most of the times, it comes off as obvious bullshit. Tyler Childers ain’t that guy. If it came off any more genuine, he’d be named Ben Nichols or Frank Turner. Like a snake handler, the faithful believes without moral restitution – we align ourselves with a sense of wrongdoing, but righteousness by the fire below. Those of us, who’ve got a little dirt, can sink our teeth into that kind of steak, because it’s not tainted.
Do yourself a favor and get out and see him live, try to grab whatever piece of music you can. If he releases a record this year, he’ll be that guy we’re saying we knew when – just like we do with Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton. Tyler Childers is next. You mark my words.