Tyler Childers self-released his first album ‘Bottles and Bibles’ in 2011 aged 19. A bit rough around the edges maybe, but that release offered a glimpse of the potential that the young Kentuckian had. It also demonstrated a determination and single-mindedness that has not been eroded with the passage of time. Childers’ second and breakthrough album, 2017’s ‘Purgatory’ was produced by Sturgill Simpson and David Ferguson and not only garnered widespread critical acclaim but also won Childers the ‘Best Emerging Artist’ Award at the 2018 Americana Music Association Awards.
Given the success of ‘Purgatory’ it is of little surprise that Childers has retained the Simpson and Ferguson production partnership for his third album ‘Country Squire’. Recorded in Nashville, it doesn’t move too far from the template of its predecessor and that’s a compliment. When receiving his Americana Music Association award, Childers was quite dismissive of the ‘Americana’ label attached to his work stating that in his mind he was a “country singer”. ‘Country Squire’ is most certainly a country record, yet it is also much more than that. Elements of the bluegrass of Childers’ home state, mix with folk as well as country to produce a sound that is very much his own. Childers is no revivalist or purveyor of nostalgia. Whilst clearly influenced by past traditions, ‘Country Squire’ proclaims Childers as a modern torchbearer, carrying those traditions forward, building on them and keeping country music relevant in the 21st century.
The songs are lyrically led stories that reference the familiar subjects of life, home and upbringing. However, the setting and the context of Childers’ words are very much of a contemporary nature. They also come from a genuine place; Childers is the son of a coal miner and a nurse and dropped out of university to pursue his musical career. Each song on the album is exquisitely crafted, beautifully played and sung with conviction. There isn’t a weakness or fault to be found in any of them. The only slight complaint that might be levelled is that there are only nine of them, making for a quite slim collection totalling only a little over 35 minutes.
In the last year, as well as playing over 170 headline shows (his solo shows in the UK last year were hugely impressive) Childers has also supported John Prine and Margo Price. Like those two, Childers has stuck to his beliefs and traditions rather than playing for the big bucks. Whilst the grit and determination of the 19 year old that released ‘Bottles and Bibles’ eight years ago is still intact, Childers has also matured and developed. With ‘Country Squire’ he has confirmed what his fans already know; Childers is a genuine talent and in it for the long haul. The album is nothing short of a triumph that can only raise his profile even further. Childers returns to the UK for a full band tour in January 2020. Don’t miss it.