Tyler Childers seems to have a plan…..
Go back to that Americana Music Awards acceptance speech where Childers said “Americana ain’t no part of nothing…” and you’ll see the exigence of a theme: Tyler Childers is all about being a COUNTRY singer, and Tyler Childers wants to fix country music.
With Country Squire, Childers fires a salvo at bro-country’s canned beats and saccharine, assembly line lyrics.
And here’s the rub: in making an old-country album that SOUNDS like an old-country album, Tyler won’t sound like Purgatory Childers as much as some might want him to, and that is obviously each person’s prerogative.
From my own experience, I have found one thing when hearing something that sounds a bit different, though. A few listens generally acclimates the ear and adjusts the paradigm. (And, if all else fails, YouTube provides that rawer, grittier live sound that probably captured most Childers fans upon first listen.)
For me, Country Squire is proving to be a great album that has moments of flashing meteoritic fire through a thirsty sky and a couple of places where I need a little more time for paradigmic calibrations.
Country Squire track by track:
Country Squire—When I saw the tracklist, this wasn’t one I was most looking forward to by any means; yet, every listen makes me question whether it’s my favorite track on the album. “Country Squire” is brimming with the simplistically intricate poetry that made me a Tyler Childers fan in the first place. Plus, it’s just really a fun listen. A great way to start the album……
……albums beg for great songs, and “Bus Route” is one of my overall favorite Childers songs, ever. After hearing so many excellent live versions, I admit that this one is a bit subdued, but I’m hoping to acclimate. The song itself is clever, crafty, and colloquially complex in ways that country folk will have no problems connecting to. The rural ethos spills out of every verse, and begs the question—What is it hogs WON’T eat? “Oh, blister ‘em……”
…..Impossible not to like a country song like “Creeker” if you’re a fan of the genre at all. The way I feel about this album cut is diametrically opposed its tracklist predecessor. Vocally, “Creeker” sounds more like the Childers I first heard. This cleaner version also affords us a better chance to absorb the lyrics of a relatively new song, which is always a plus with a poet like Tyler…..
…..Childers placed “Gemini” in the middle of this album, but in my heart, it may be number one. This song has all the elements of greatness—excellent lyrics, solid musical drive, and undeniable stickiness. I am not sure I can listen without singing about being “hid out in the upper room” the rest of the day. I AM sure that I’m completely okay with that….
….Being the first early release put a lot of pressure on “House Fire.” As a singular structure, this one stands up well, but it is brilliant in the middle of this cohesive unit of nine songs operating as one metaphysical entity, connected….
….To each, a love song sounds different. Jimmy Buffett famously calls one of his most-known songs “a love song from a different point of view.” I will say the same for “Everlovin’ Hand” and move right along….
….With having heard Tyler’s latest performances of “Peace of Mind,” I pretty much knew a slow waltz was imminent. Love the song. Lyrically, it hits home with precision. I heard a friend call it “real,” and that is apt analysis. Musically, I won’t question Tyler’s decision; he knows his song better than anyone. Still, acclimating is going to take me longer with this one than any….
….Criticism of “All Your’n” abounded upon early release, and true, it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve heard from Childers before. It didn’t take long, however, for my ear to tune to this sonic experience. I initially rated the three options for hearing this song as 1. Live with band 2. Live solo 3. Album. Within a few listens, the album cut had become my second favorite. By this point, it is now my number one. “All Your’n” is a soul song on an otherwise country album, straight from the mid-70’s. Sit back, relax, and let the flow overtake you….
….Listen to “Matthew” and realize the album is over, but there’s a repeat button. Go ahead and click it. But before you do, enjoy the story. This is another track I like more on the album than I did previously. Simply stated, there’s a relatability and a realness we have come to expect from Tyler, and it all works.
….and this plan plays out over “nine vignettes that push back against cliched portrayals of Kentucky life.” As a friend of mine succinctly said, I’d buy that on a T-shirt. I’ll take two!
Check out this Childers post from Stocktony’s 2017 archives: https://thekysportsguys.com/two-to-listen-to-too/
Stocktony also had a take on “House Fire” on its release day: https://thekysportsguys.com/the-worry-and-the-why-tyler-childers/