Tyler Childers had a breakout last 12 months with his album Purgatory catching the ear of many a critic and country/folk music fan, winning Emerging Artist Of The Year at the Americana Awards and scoring opening slots with Americana heavyweights John Prine, Margo Price and Sturgill Simpson. That album was produced by Simpson and he returns in the same role on Country Squire, a record that refines and expands Childers’ songs of struggling souls.
Like so many artists these days, Americana seems the best catch-all description of Childers’ sound. It’s a true stylistic potpourri, drawing on Appalachian folk, breezy country and honky tonk – the common thread being his gnarled yet melodic, mountain-soul voice that bends and curls around his stories. ‘House Fire’ rides an agile Steve Earle-styled guitar line, the title track hits an old-school country twang and two-step groove while the single ‘All Your’N’ is as good as anything he’s written with its deep soul feel that navigates the devotional aspect of love. “I’ll love you ’til my lungs give out, I ain’t lyin’” sings Childers on the most unabashed and optimistic moment on the album.
Elsewhere it’s the underdog and the disenfranchised that Childers places in his songs. Individuals like ‘Matthew’, struggling to make ends meet in dead-end jobs and that guy at the end of the bar, trying to figure it all out in his hometown. There’s a certain romanticism to the great American struggle portrayed here, partly due to the music that more often than not has a real swing and shuffle to it – a feature that may be down to the influence of Simpson and his kaleidoscopic approach to country music.
On Country Squire Childers has consolidated and progressed his undeniable talent, but as good as the album is, you sense his masterpiece is still to come.