Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Tyler Childers

  • Purgatory [Hickman Holler, 2017] A-
  • Live on Red Barn Radio I & II [Thirty Tigers/Hickman Holler, 2018] A-
  • Country Squire [RCA/Hickman Holler, 2019] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Purgatory [Hickman Holler, 2017]
This intense, narrow, flawlessly crafted retro-nuevo honky-tonk album gains decisive poetry from both Childers's lean, resonant East Kentucky drawl and his failure to shake his fundamentalist upbringing--purgatory, in case you didn't get the message, is a Romanist notion. "Do you reckon He lets free will boys / Mope around in purgatory?" he asks the Catholic girl he hopes to hedge his bets with, and damned if she doesn't slow him down some. "Darlin' to me but that's missus to you," he boasts. "Still on the road 'cause I ain't good for nothing / But writing the songs that I sing," he contextualizes. A-

Live on Red Barn Radio I & II [Thirty Tigers/Hickman Holler, 2018]
Born in 1991, Childers was no longer a kid in 2013 and 2014, when he recorded the two four-song EPs combined here. But he wasn't yet a man either. Instead, he was just old enough to know how good he was at the songwriting stuff even if he had trouble with the life stuff the songs drew on: "I believe if I could find my keys/I'd try to drive away" are the words of somebody who doesn't know whether "it's the wine or the coke/That makes her sound like her jaw is broke." Such well-turned dilemmas dominate this phase of his repertoire. The most manly is a heart-tugger about a pal's dead grandma: "Back when all us boys were tryin'/To make sense of all these strings/I can see her in the corner/Singin' along to all our crazy dreams." A-

Country Squire [RCA/Hickman Holler, 2019]
This guy can write. For the second straight album, he mixes a few sure-shot classics into nine straight winners--imaginatively observed, acutely colloquial songs of the Appalachian life, the musician's lot, or both. On 2017's Purgatory I loved the way he pivoted off the title into the doctrinal matters that still persist where fundamentalism rules, for the object of his special affection is a papist so unbiblical as to believe there's a place between heaven and hell. Here he's apparently married this infidel, a paragon who texted him the selfies that inspire the juiciest wanking song in the literature--"It gets so hard out on the road," so thank the Lord the motel has his "favorite lotion" and his "Ever Lovin' Hand." Other topics include the muse he can't refuse, the '66 camper he's customizing, a school bus driver who'll paddle your ass, and the high price of peace of mind. A-