Tyler Childers - Rustin' In The Rain Album Cover
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‘Percheron Mules’ by Tyler Childers - Lyrics & Meaning

September 8, 2023 11:00 pm GMT
Last Edited December 19, 2023 7:43 pm GMT

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Tyler Childers - ‘Percheron Mules’

Label: Hickman Holler Records / RCA Records

Release Date: September 8th, 2023

Album: Rustin’ in the Rain

Producers: Tyler Childers & The Food Stamps

Songwriter: Tyler Childers

The Background:

Tyler Childers has been including ‘Percheron Mules’ in his setlist for over a year now, so fans were delighted to see it on the Rustin’ in the Rain tracklist when it was unveiled by Spotify in August.

For instance, the Kentucky maverick performed ‘Percheron Mules’ at Willie Nelson's 4th of July event in 2022, with many avid listeners fearing this jaunty, upbeat cut may be cast to the same unreleased pile as ‘Jersey Giant’, which is yet to see the light of day.

Its inclusion was perhaps to be expected, once the theme for the new project had been revealed by Childers, with mules and farming imagery being employed extensively throughout the record.

‘Percheron Mules’ is, in many ways, the key to understanding the rest of Rustin’ in the Rain, with Childers detailing how valuable and pivotal mules are for traditional farming methods, despite the fact that the animals are often dismissed as unimportant.

The Sound:

A brazen and spritely shuffle, Childers harnesses the unbridled energy of The Food Stamps and conducts them into a toe-tapping reverie, the instantaneous burst of the introduction only marginally hushed by Tyler as he once again watches over his faithful mules.

While The Food Stamps are instrumental in the musicianship throughout the track, it's Ronnie McCoury, Jason Carter and Alan Bartram of the Travelin’ McCourys' barbershop quartet-influenced harmonies that suddenly arise halfway through that make this a truly spellbinding track. Acting as a call and response to Childers’ shepherding, they offer the song a sense of nostalgia and community - a wholesome warmth that accentuates both Childers' desire for easier times, and the sense of contentment he’s found today.

While the effervescent sparkling of the mandolin and acoustic guitar square-dance with the smooth, radio-friendly accentuation of the harmonies, the true expression of the song lies in the wildly playful honky-tonk piano.

Chase Lewis manages to coalesce perfectly with the rest of the instrumentation in the background, while at the same time leading his own smokey procession like Little Richard at his most fruity.

The Meaning:

“Mammoth Jacks and Percheron mares
Grazing up and down my dreams
Nothin’ less than sixteen hands
I don’t wanna drag my feet”

The track serves as a tribute of sorts to the animal that stands as the backbone of Rustin’ in the Rain, with Childers setting out just how essential mules and donkeys are to the livelihoods of farmers, especially in his home-state of Kentucky.

‘Percheron Mules’ embodies Childers' dedication to telling the stories of the Appalachian region, while at the same time probing and questioning the perspectives and beliefs that pervade it.

Anything more small than that
It ain’t worth the feed it takes
Give me big ‘ol Mammoth Jacks
Throwin’ mules the size of tanks”

For instance, although mules are a crucial part of everyday life for many farmers, Childers highlights throughout the album - and particularly on ‘Percheron Mules’ - how under-appreciated they are.

The ‘All Your'n’ songsmith's passion for this topic stems from the fact that he was told by an older man during one of his first gigs, “You look like a mule looking over a picket fence”.

This led Tyler to reassess his place in the world, “I thought, ‘I’m a mule.’ I’m a poor working man’s animal, and I’m looking over the fence in somebody else’s yard. Do I even belong here?”

“Yeah a team the size of tanks
And a hundred head of goat
When I get the pigpen built
Imma find a couple shoats
And I’ll name ’em after y’all
And they’ll all look just like me
Rollin’ ‘round a pile of shit
Just as happy as can be”

Here, Childers introduces other staples of farm life, such as ‘shoats’ - a term for young pigs - and goats, with the boundary-pushing lyricist also including a trademark example of the endearing self-deprecation he so often weaves into his music.

The line, “And I’ll name ’em after y’all / And they’ll all look just like me” epitomises this, as well as showing how Childers has turned the man's derisory comment into a beautiful affinity for mules.

“Yeah a team of Percheron mules
Pullin’ rebuilt No. 9
Slidin’ stone boats ‘cross the hill
For to stack the stones so high
I don’t mind to beat the rock
But my back can’t take the haul
But with these here Percheron mules
It ain’t troublin’ me at all

The core message of ‘Percheron Mules’ is captured in the lines “But with these here Percheron Mules / It ain't troublin’ me at all”, as the song's protagonist expresses his gratitude for the animals that make his tiresome job much more manageable.

“They don’t need their oil changed
They don’t burn gasoline
They keep me stock in all
The compost that I need”

Childers goes on to compare mules with the novel machinery that has now replaced farm animals in so many modern agricultural businesses.

For much of Rustin’ in the Rain, the Kentucky native situates his protagonist in a bygone era, seemingly the 1950s, and this verse consolidates this, with the character professing his resistance to the ‘modern’ introduction of machines on farms.

What has Tyler Childers said about ‘Percheron Mules’?

Speaking to NPR before the release of Rustin’ in the Rain, Tyler Childers outlined where the inspiration to include mules so prominently on the album stemmed from.

“It [also] has all these allusions to horse-drawn equipment and pieces of harnessing. I was spending a lot of COVID time working these two mules”.

He went on the explain, “My grandpa grew up as a tenant farmer in Lawrence County, and always kept a horse up until he passed. And his favourite brother Lucian, lived down the road and he worked mules up until the '90s. And so it was a part of my history. And then the world shut down. I was like, no better time than now. And that was a lot of fun, so that was kind of where my head was at. The album has a lot of love songs, but if there's a thread, it's the mules”.

For the full lyrics to Tyler Childers’ ‘Percheron Mules’, see below:

“Mammoth Jacks and Percheron mares
Grazing up and down my dreams
Nothin’ less than sixteen hands
I don’t wanna drag my feet

Anything more small than that
It ain’t worth the feed it takes
Give me big ‘ol Mammoth Jacks
Throwin’ mules the size of tanks

Yeah a team the size of tanks
And a hundred head of goat
When I get the pigpen built
Imma find a couple shoats

And I’ll name’em after y’all
And they’ll all look just like me
Rollin’ ‘round a pile of shit
Just as happy as can be

Mammoth Jacks and Percheron mares
Grazing up and down my dreams
Nothin’ less than sixteen hands
I don’t wanna drag my feet

Anything more small than that
It ain’t worth the feed it takes
Give me big ‘ol Mammoth Jacks
Throwin’ mules the size of tanks

Yeah a team of Percheron mules
Pullin’ rebuilt No. 9
Slidin’ stone boats ‘cross the hill
For to stack the stones so high

I don’t mind to beat the rock
But my back can’t take the haul
But with these here Percheron mules
It ain’t troublin’ me at all

They don’t need their oil changed
They don’t burn gasoline
They keep me stock in all
The compost that I need

Mammoth Jacks and Percheron mares
Grazing up and down my dreams
Nothin’ less than sixteen hands
I don’t wanna drag my feet

Anything more small than that
It ain’t worth the feed it takes
Give me big ‘ol Mammoth Jacks
Throwin’ mules the size of tanks

Give me big ‘ol Mammoth Jacks
Throwin’ mules the size of tank”

For more on Tyler Childers, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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