A long-held secret for Kentucky music fans for the better part of the 2010s, Tyler Childers has exploded into a household name following the release of 2017’s David Ferguson and Sturgill Simpson-produced debut Purgatory, alongside subsequent releases Country Squire and Long Violent History.
To celebrate his stellar discography and ponder what’s to come, Holler has compiled a list of some—but certainly not all—of Childers’ best work.
Before Purgatory put him on the map, Childers went viral in the spring of 2017 with this performance of 'Nose on the Grindstone', taken from the OurVinyl Sessions.
The song touches on the opioid epidemic that has decimated Appalachia and other parts of the United States in the last decade, while pondering how well-meaning advice like “keep your nose to the grindstone and out of the pills” is easier said than done.
This rollicking fireside anthem documents a relentless winter Childers and his wife (and fellow musician) Senora May endured while living in an elderly couple’s farmhouse; all in exchange for Childers doing manual labor around the property.
With heavy bluegrass and old-time influence, the song finds the artist paying homage to his musical roots in Eastern Kentucky.
This chilling ballad is an introspective look at how he can do better as he “shakes the frost” - or brings down his emotional walls - around those he loves.
The heartbreaking song goes on to describe his love being like the warmth of the sunrise hitting the Appalachian mountains, before reminiscing on the old Mustang he used to run on high hopes “til' they raised the price of dreams so high I couldn't pay”.
This raw cut delves into the dilapidated working conditions in Eastern Kentucky coal mines and the sacrifice of the workers within them.
These workers were putting their lives on the line every day, all while living off of bread, hope and a pool of a million tears, before finally admitting “that coal is gonna bury you”.
Another love note to his wife Senora May, the song contains perhaps one of the best opening lines from Childers’ catalog; “Well my buckle makes impressions / On the inside of her thigh / There are little feathered Indians / Where we tussled through the night.”
The imagery of simple, mundane events like this are what elevate Childers' songwriting to another level.
The love for Senora May continues with 'Country Squire', the title track from his sophomore album.
The song looks back on the couple as newlyweds, when they had to move in with his parents before buying and fixing up a used camper that Childers referred to as their “country squire”.
Purgatory’s closing track explores the idea of walking through life with the one you love and discovering all of the wonder and nature around you.
The song pulls upon vivid imagery of the Appalachian mountains and religion in what is one of Childers’ most heartfelt songs written to date.
Written about a wild man full of tall tales and flat-out lies that Childers worked with for a time in Eastern Kentucky, “Whitehouse Road” has turned into one of Childers' most popular and highly requested songs.
With carefree lyrics like “Get me drinking' that moonshine / Get me higher than the grocery bill / Take my troubles to the highwall / Throw'em in the river and get your fill”
It’s easy to see why this one's such a hit.
Childers' confronts the death of George Floyd on 'Long Violent History'.
The song compares past and modern-day injustices against Black Americans to 1921’s Battle of Blair Mountain, a labor uprising led by coal miners.
He sings; “How many boys could they haul off this mountain / Shoot full of holes, cuffed, and laid in the streets / 'Til we come into town in a stark ravin' anger / Looking for answers and armed to the teeth”.
A universal love song, 'All Your’n' balances Childers’ life on the road with his love for his wife and home in Eastern Kentucky.
On the stringed medley, he professes wanting to share everything from fried morels and fine hotels with his love, before admitting; “I'll love ya 'til my lungs give out / I ain't lyin’ / I'm all your'n and you're all mine.”
Feature Photography by Emma Delevante.
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