Tyler Childers’ scratchy, throaty and very affecting voice defies his young age of 28. Despite his adeptness at stringing uneven numbers of syllables into a verse and still arriving at the immaculate consistency of a thread of pearls, his power is in his ability to freshen a very established instrumental toolset into something that appears to bear more riches on your 20th listen and beyond than it does on your first. The deeper you dive and the more effort you make to shuck the oysters open, the brighter those pearls will shine. It’s a good fit for an artist such as Childers. Despite <100,000 record sales to date, he regularly performs to huge crowds that get exactly what I’m talking about. They turn up in their tens of thousands knowing just what to expect, after their own deep dives. “Now I’m lit up like a Christmas tree, check one-two, can y’all hear me?”
So, perhaps star producer Sturgill Simpson IS saving all his best studio tricks for himself, but the damage to Childer’s output is precisely nil. After all, I tell myself, nothing that reminds me of my monumental first taste of bluegrass – Dixie Chicks Home album – will ever disappoint me. It’s clear from the get-go, the effortless delivery of his loquacious opener and title track, that he’s a storyteller. It has five individual verses packed into less than three and a half minutes, and that’s where the money is. He really does pack an impressive array of subject matter into these nine tracks: alongside every “godforsaken town” truism, there’s a curveball akin to five minutes dedicated to sexting, something it seems he’s had a chance to familiarise with, long-distance while killing it on the road.
Never is a chance missed to portray his thoughts like poetic roses in full bloom. He illustrates the father of a girl he managed to seduce in high school quite delightfully: “And I’m glad the little girl’s dad never found out what was goin’ on/I know he’d kill me in a minute and he wouldn’t have left no trace/Hogs’ll eat ’bout anything you give ’em and they don’t let nothin’ go to waste”. One wonders if the hog would be angry or not hearing the song today, knowing what an imaginative way little Tyler decided to describe him with. It’s such a brutal and flavourful analogy, it’s almost a tribute to the guy.
Sometimes, there’s not even a chorus. This, my friends, is as rustic as it gets, yet a top 5 debut is all but certain. There’s a host of outlaws, “underground” artists of Childers’ ilk, who are going to be buying their copies of Country Squire. They might just see it to #1, where it belongs. Yet, as impressive as this sophomore set is, something tells me Childers’ most impressive moments are still ahead of him.