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

September 8, 2023 11:01 pm GMT
Last Edited December 19, 2023 7:50 pm GMT

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Tyler Childers - ‘Rustin’ in the Rain’

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:

After sprinkling some teaser clips and photos across his usually quiet socials, Tyler Childers confirmed fans' suspicions in late July by announcing a brand new single, ‘In Your Love’.

To coincide with the premiere of the heartbreaking ‘In Your Love’ music video, the Kentucky songsmith revealed the single would be appearing on his upcoming album, Rustin’ in the Rain.

The following month, Spotify not-so-subtly revealed the full seven-song tracklist for the record, with Rustin’ in the Rain set to include a blend of unreleased fan-favourites, never-heard-before songs and a cover of Kris Kristofferson's ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’.

One of the most hotly anticipated offerings was inevitably the title-track, which serves as the keystone for Rustin’ in the Rain. The album has been described by Childers as a collection of songs he could pitch to Elvis, but thematically, one of the central pillars of the project is - endearingly - the Appalachian flag-bearer's love of mules.

Although not covered quite as explicitly on the title-track as on the likes of ‘In Your Love’ and ‘Percheron Mules’, the metaphorical purpose served by Childers’ favourite animal harks back to an experience he had early on in his musical career.

As he explained to The New York Times, during one of his first performances at a Christmas party, an older man told him, “You look like a mule looking over a picket fence”. This led him to think, “‘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?”

Now, with Rustin in the Rain, the mule has been transformed into an emblem of pride, with Tyler Childers crafting the project as a tribute to the often under-appreciated value of mules.

As well as sticking to the evocative retro-rural imagery that pervades the album, the title-track sets the sweet, rose-tinted portrayal of unconditional love that underpins the project, with Childers pleading with his partner not to leave him ‘Rustin’ in the Rain’.

The Sound:

Tyler Childers has repeatedly stressed that he wants to be - and should be - considered a ‘country’ artist. He has frequently complained about attempts to siphon his music off into the category of Americana, labeling this a “costume”.

The new album's title-track feels like a full-blooded mission statement, with Childers outlining for all to see that there's no question as to which genre he identifies with.

‘Rustin’ in the Rain’ is a honky-tonk anthem, infused with all the joyously traditional instrumentation and unashamedly twee and exuberant lyricism that makes 90s country music so uplifting.

From the jaunty keys to spritely, energising steel and feverish, Allman Brothers-esque guitars, ‘Rustin’ in the Rain’ plays like a Kentucky freight train zipping along the tracks at great speed, threatening to rattle off course at any given moment but always just about holding on.

The Meaning:

“I have gee’d and haw’d
Myself into a tizzy
I am yearning for the turning
In the most peculiar way”

‘Rustin’ in the Rain’ churns cleverly around the core image of a plough, with Childers referring to himself as the embodiment of a worn-out piece of farm machinery.

He explains how he's “yearning for the turning” of the soil, using his eagerness to be put to work as a metaphor for how desperately he wants his lover to use him.

“Blame it on my jeans
Caked in tenant farming
But I can’t stand for idle hands
As the hours waste away”

He continues this sense of restlessness into the second verse, but this time describes himself as a man tending his fields, painting a visceral picture of how he needs to be working on the land in order to feel truly at peace.

Again, this serves as a metaphor for Childers' marriage to Senora May, as he suggests he cannot sit still and ease his mind without being immersed in her affection.

Let your love light shine
Don’t ya hide it ‘neath no bushel, baby
Take ‘at wick to task
And work me all night ‘neath the flame.
I am yours to use
And I sure wish you would use me
Do not let my heart just fall apart
Rustin’ in the rain”

The Kentucky native flexes his songwriting muscles in the hook, imploring his partner to let her love to shine lustrously through. He then intensifies this image, describing the passion she feels for him as a flame that he wishes to be engulfed in, just as a flickering wick will work away at the candle that sits underneath.

“I’m a hillside plow
Working one way then the other
I don’t run around in circles
I work right on up the side
Startin’ at the foot
Going past the shoulder
‘Til the sweat erodes
And the whole hill slides”

As is often the case when it comes to Tyler Childers’ lyrics, the content of these verses is undoubtedly open to interpretation. On one reading, the sexual connotations of the ‘Rustin’ in the Rain’ imagery are brought to the fore via the evocative descriptions of his work.

Passion and intimacy are two strong pillars of the track, with the underlying age-old innuendo of fertilising the field seemingly being pointedly utilised by Childers throughout the joyful song.

Another perspective would be that the ‘Lady May’ hitmaker is simply conveying the directness with which he approaches this relationship, and he makes it clear in these verses that he does not want to tip-toe around his feelings for his wife (“I don't run around in circles / I work right on up the side”).

I have gee’d and haw’d
For you and and it sure suits me
I am pawing with impatience
At the thought of tracing chains
I have grit my bit
Right in half from just a thinkin’
Of gettin’ hunkered down
Tryin’ to get up through the hames”

Now, instead of assuming the role of the plough or the farmer, Childers steps into the shoes of his beloved mule that appears on the cover of the album. ‘Gee’ and ‘haw’ are phrases used to turn a mule or a horse left and right.

He emphasises how he is growing more and more frustrated by the minute, calling on his love once again to put him to work. Childers even confesses that he's chewed his ‘bit’ - the piece of equipment that goes in the mule's mouth - in two. The ‘hames’ refer to the curved wooden bars that attach to either side of the mules to help control them.

What has Tyler Childers said about ‘Rustin’ in the Rain’?

Speaking to The New York Times about the inspiration for the album as a whole, Childers emphasised the colossal impact Elvis Presley had on the record.

“I don’t know if it was me saying that or the algorithm thought I was the guy to send it to, but all of the sudden there was all of this Elvis stuff around me," he shared. "So I played it like a Nashville songwriter, trying to come up with songs to pitch”.

Touching on his introduction of vibrant imagery and metaphors when crafting this album, such as that of a plough in the title-track, Childers outlined to NPR, “If I want to use the imagery of something, it's a tool to put you in a place. Like, I don't make the prop the character.

"Often in commercial country they're pitching you on that prop, like, 'We're in our truck.' Not, 'I was in my particular truck to go to do a particular thing.' The truck's just there to paint the picture. And I just try to see how it fits in the song and keep the cheese out of it”.

For the full lyrics to Tyler Childers’ ‘Rustin’ in the Rain’, see below:

“I have gee’d and haw’d
Myself into a tizzy
I am yearning for the turning
In the most peculiar way

Blame it on my jeans
Caked in tenant farming
But I can’t stand for idle hands
As the hours waste away

Let your love light shine
Don’t ya hide it ‘neath no bushel, baby
Take ‘at wick to task
And work me all night ‘neath the flame.
I am yours to use
And I sure wish you would use me
Do not let my heart just fall apart
Rustin’ in the rain

I’m a hillside plow
Working one way then the other
I don’t run around in circles
I work right on up the side

Startin’ at the foot
Going past the shoulder
‘Til the sweat erodes
And the whole hill slides

Let your love light shine
Don’t ya hide it ‘neath no bushel, baby
Take ‘at wick to task
And work me all night ‘neath the flame
I am yours to use
And I sure wish you would use me
Do not let my heart just fall apart
Rustin’ in the rain

I have gee’d and haw’d
For you and and it sure suits me
I am pawing with impatience
At the thought of tracing chains

I have grit my bit
Right in half from just a thinkin’
Of gettin’ hunkered down
Tryin’ to get up through the hames

Let your love light shine
Don’t ya hide it ‘neath no bushel, baby
Take ‘at wick to task
And work me all night ‘neath the flame
I am yours to use
And I sure wish you would use me
Do not let my heart just fall apart
Rustin’ in the rain”

For more on Tyler Childers, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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