Review Summary: An Appalachian troubadour delivers tales of joy and more joy.
Tyler Childers takes the pieces of modern country music, shatters them completely, and then picks up the pieces to put together records that run the gamut of country music, being undeniably catchy and accessible while never coming close to falling into the pitfalls of pop-country. This is country music from the hills of Kentucky, with mentions of everything from morels to muskies, which has absolutely no qualms with writing feel-good songs about love, instead of the endless drone of heartbreak which many of his country contemporaries try to offer. How many other artists, and especially country artists, could write a song about literally taking the loneliness of the road into your own hands and make it a heartfelt love song?
Just like his well-received debut Purgatory
, Country Squire
was produced by current industry legend Sturgill Simpson. While the down-home Southern charm and honky-tonk of Purgatory
still permeates throughout the album, the influence of Simpson is felt strongly on this album. The rough-and-tumble twang is still there, but it’s surrounded with slight levels of psychedelia and experimentation. Southern Baptist Revival organs add layers to multiple songs, didgeridoo can be heard in “Bus Route”, and the entire album has a much more “concept album” feeling to it, with most songs seamlessly transitioning into each other, with many of those transitions featuring the subtle hand of innovation. While the grit of Childers’ past work can be missed at times, especially when it makes it presence known in songs like “Ever Lovin’ Hand”, Simpson’s influence doesn’t overstep its boundaries: This is still undeniably a Tyler Childers album. Strummed acoustic guitar and banjo are in abundance, fiddles are aplenty, and a guitar solo that sounds straight from the local bar is never too far away. The best culmination of all of these traits is found in the delightfully ramshackle, “All Your’n”, a bluesy, gospel twinged love song that is as much for Childers wife as it is his career.
Most importantly, however, his main goal is made clear in the title-track opener : Tyler Childers is here to make some damn good country songs. The title track is also the first sign of the aforementioned concept that stretches across the album. The title track is all about Childers’ desire to take his money from touring to buy a trailer to refurbish for his wife and family. The entire album is focused around making the best out of whatever circumstances Childers’ or those around him happen to be in. He offers a refreshingly earnest outlook on life for the genre without treading into the hackneyed lyrical stylings of similar tropes that contemporary country pop embraces. Part of this comes from the power of Childers voice, undeniably one of the best in the genre at the moment. A powerful vibrato adds even more passion to “House Fire”, a song already unmistakably about passion. “Peace of Mind” tells the story of a man who dreams of retiring from the railroad so he can smoke more marijuana, and the way that Childers delivers the word “marijuana” makes a fairly rank and file topic sound all the more romantic.
These observational songs are perhaps the most powerful across Country Squire
. The man in “Peace of Mind” is the story of a roommate’s older brother who used to watch University of Kentucky football games with Childers and his roommates. “Creeker” tells the story of all of the people Childers sees in Chicago as he is drunk and hungover after his Uber Driver drops him off at the wrong intersection. Five minutes long, you find yourself there with Childers as the bluesy piano stumbles along, sounding drunk all in itself, and he laments, in a playfully ironic way, “All the ways that the city can bring a country boy down”. Closer “Matthew” is the saddest song on the album, but is still undoubtedly twinged with optimism. It tells the stories of multiple men in a small town, including Childers’ war veteran brother-in-law. This is essentially the thesis statement of the album, about simply enjoying the little things life offers you in between its trials, even if it’s just chatting with friends and family while waiting on the muskie to bite. Even if you’re nowhere near where a muskie might bite, or if you have no idea what a muskie is, let Tyler Childers and Country Squire
transport you there.