Tyler Childers sings for his life. From his three increasingly impressive studio albums to the live album that is making him famous, Childers knows what true grit sounds like.
There’s not one song he sings where he doesn’t sound like he’s put everything he has into it. He admits that, while it might not be good right now, it’ll get better. His lyrics, raw and emotional, are deeply personal but emblematic of the time and place he grew up. “Nose on the Grindstone,” a hopeful depiction of a generation marred by drug deaths, is a reminder of country music’s real spirit.
His accent, thick and plenty, doesn’t overshadow his music, nor does it pander for listeners. It is just a spice in Tyler Childers’ barbeque sauce, along with a whining fiddle and well-placed bouts of banjo, just to let you know where he came from (Say “thank you, Appalachia”). It’s raw beauty, not overproduced nor arranged. He’s just a man and his guitar, and it gets harder every day. He sees the beauty in life, even if it’s hard.
In the live “Charleston Girl,” he says the girl he is with has “flaming hair, bloodshot eyes and skin so fair.” That wild type of beauty runs through all of his music, tinny guitar behind Childers’ strong, solemn call.
Popular country music will sometimes glorify rural living. But Childers doesn’t ignore the realities of living in Appalachia; It’s sloppy, drinking moonshine and smoking cigarettes, like in “Whitehouse Road.” It’s working at grandma’s house and mourning her real, true love after she dies when you go back home, like in “Follow You to Virgie,” in which he sings “I reckon we were heathens, but in her eyes we were saints.” At that moment, his grandmother could be my own. The purity in that line, that song, is what Tyler Childers does best.
There’s moments where Childers questions himself. But need not, Tyler. There is something so special about a musician who can take his listeners to his grandma’s house when he was twelve, and he takes his listeners with him every time he goes back.
Tyler Childers’ poetry and deep reflection negates any elitism toward rural living. He’s lived it, he loves it, and he’s currently country music’s biggest defender. Anyone, anywhere, can find and create beauty. It just takes grit.
Shelby Campbell is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Shelby know by tweeting her @bloodbuzzohioan.