Album Review: Tyler Childers' A Long Violent History
Words by Zach O’Hare
The United States has felt like it's been in constant turmoil for most of 2020. A lot of public figures have spoken about the COVID-19 pandemic, police brutality etc. Tyler Childers, in doing his part, released an album along with a statement from his YouTube channel on September 18th. In the 6 minute long video Childers gives the audience insight to his own observations regarding America’s current events. The statement also clarifies the intentions for the title track “Long Violent History." Childers humbly explains that his objective was to create “fairly legible sounds on the fiddle” and let Long Violent History speak for itself.
In the first 8 tracks, Childers achieves his goal by covering old folk songs from various artists. Origins of the instrumental tracks range from American Civil War songs to a Broadway show tune. These tracks are sonically pleasing to even a bluegrass and folk layman, but can overall be difficult to interpret. It is speculated that a few of the songs have hidden meaning, which, considering how cerebral Childers’ is known to be, is absolutely feasible. Though, while tracks like “Squirrel Hunter” and “Send In The Clowns” appeal more to the veteran bluegrass crowd, “Long Violent History” is easily digestible for anyone willing to listen.
In the title track Childers gives an honest observation on the topic of police brutality while contrasting the issue to his own life. The first couple verses point to the general feeling of dread and distrust when consuming much of the relevant media coverage. A feeling that resonates with the general public entirely too well. Childers then goes on to question listeners on what they would gain from hearing his opinion. Given his general lack of qualifiers, being in his own words a “white boy from Hickman”(a Kentucky county that is 87% white).
Childers sings, the world has “called me belligerent, it's took me for ignorant, but it ain’t never once made me scared just to be.” Implying that while not always being looked at favorably he’s never been scared to literally be himself. After, he asks, “could you imagine just constantly worryin', kickin’, and fightin, beggin' to breathe?”, in an attempt to provoke thought and trigger self awareness into listeners.
The remainder of the song Childers tries to put things into perspective for his own demographic. “How many boys could they haul off this mountain, shoot full of holes, cuffed and layin' in the streets, 'til we come into town in a stark ravin' anger, looking for answers and armed to the teeth?” Wondering aloud if they, themselves would take matters into their own hands facing the same adversity.
Long Violent History effectively states the feelings of Childers while putting it into perspective for Americans that look like him. He continues to possess the innate ability to convey a meaningful message with the country genre, while still maintaining the high quality of music that Childers fans expect.
Proceeds from Long Violent History will be sent to the Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund.