Hailing from the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky, Tyler Childers has been making his rounds in the Country Music scene. His first studio album, Purgatory, was released on October 5th, 2018, under Hickman Holler Records. This article ranks all four of Tyler’s studio albums out now by placing each against the other to see which one comes out on top. Don’t get it wrong though, each album is great in its own right, and I thoroughly recommend checking out each one of them. There isn’t a single Tyler Childers song I have heard that I think is bad, but that isn’t to say that some songs don’t stand out a bit more than others. So without much further ado, here is my ranking of all four studio albums:
4. Long Violent History (2020)
This is the latest album of Tyler Childers, and it’s many fans’ least favorite so far based on the standards his previous albums had set. On his two first albums, “Bottle and Bibles” and “Purgatory,” Tyler sings about making music, drugs, drinking, missing his woman, and his life as a hill billy. In “Long Violent History,” however, Tyler takes an expected turn by focusing on the world’s violence and how humanity is destroying itself. Before releasing the video, Tyler released a 6-minutes long video to serve as an introduction for his album. In the video, he talks about all the violence and suffering that we see on the news every day and how it is all connected. He explains that to fight violence, we must first become aware of what’s going on around us and, most importantly, try to empathize with other groups. For clarity’s sake, let’s approach the album in three parts:
The album starts on a great note, with a fiery fiddle-driven cover of Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 show song “Send In The Clowns.” Other seven fiddle tunes then follow it up – six traditional and one modern – performed with the skill and confidence of a man who’s just learned to play the fiddle (child admits to only have started learning to play the fiddle about one year ago). In the background are expert string benders.
The Protest Songs
In the album’s title track and final song, Tyler sings about this “Long Violent History” that we’re all caught up to, and he doesn’t hold back his feelings. He addresses systematic racism and police brutality, contextualizing the issue of elusive truth and media saturation in America. He also calls for people to empathize, suggesting that change starts with the simple ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Released as an introduction to the album, we see a video of Childers speaking directly to the camera, explaining his thoughts on the violence around us and how we can fight it. Childers doesn’t mince his words, and he makes it very clear that we need to open our eyes and truly see everything around us, so we can fight for those who cannot fight.
3. Country Squire (2019)
“Country Squire” is Childers’ third studio album, released on August 2nd, 2019. The album mixes both Country and Americana styles, with several songs featuring steel guitar instrumentation. The title track opens up the album and sets the tone for what’s to follow: a man in his late-twenties who is proud to be poor and loves his truck. In the first line of the opening track, he sings, “Well, tonight I’m up in Chillicothe, Downwind from the paper mill, I’m out here spittin’ on the sidewalk,” and you can sense the woefulness that’s to follow. So stereotypical of country musicians. They thrive on being in down-and-out situations and then toughening up to let it all roll off their backs. There are many songs on this album that fit this image, “Bus Route,” “House Fire,” and “Peace of Mind.” In the second song, “Bus Route,” he talks about getting rejected by a classmate he had hots for, and how he “Tried to kiss her once in the aisle of the bus, And she walked right over me, Face-down in the gum on the floor.” Childers is very good with details, which helps bring his lyrics to life.
2. Bottle and Bibles (2011)
Childers was only 19 when he released this album. Released in 2011, Bottle and Bibles is his first studio album. This one showcases the artist’s country-folk roots with a particular influence from bluegrass. His lyrics are raw with a sense of immediacy, making them feel very personal, even when talking about the more universal themes of love and poverty.Nowadays, there are a few songs from this album that I have seen Childers perform live, particularly “ If Whiskey Could Talk,” “Hard Time,” and the title track. Not because the songs are mediocre or anything, but because he prefers to stick to his newer releases, which is understandable. Still, it’s interesting to see how much he has grown as a musician.Childers leans more on his spiritual/religious side in this album, even more than he’s ever done in subsequent releases. That explains why many of his fans gravitate more towards this album, with many passing it as their favorite. “Hard Times” is my personal favorite from this album.
1. Purgatory (2017)
Childers’ second studio album, Purgatory, was released in 2017. The country music artist builds on his first album, “Bottle and Bibles” (2011), leaning on bluegrass instrumentation and folk influences. Notably, Childers has a more mature sound in this album, most apparent in his vocal delivery. He chooses to abandon his signature scream-singing style, which I think is a good thing. It allows room for more variation in terms of melody and harmonies, making this album stronger overall. The Opening Track “I Swear (to God)” isn’t a classic coming of age song, nor is it a sentimental breakup song, but rather a nod to the salt of the earth value of working and enduring. In the music video for I Swear (to God), Childers plays guitar and piano as well as singing. You can see from his emotional performance that he puts his heart into every line he sings.