By Alli Patton
Childers continues to capture the complexities of rural life as he’s always done, carefully molding each narrative with his calloused hands and knowing heart.
While we’re certainly not saying that we didn’t want a new album from Tyler Childers, perhaps it’s more that we’ve actually come to need one.
In the last few years and over the past several releases, Childers hasn’t just given us hits; he’s gifted us music to live by and to lean on.
In 2020, there was Long Violent History, an album that addressed racism, tackling a period of violence and injustice against a bluegrass backdrop. By reclaiming the Christian hymn in 2022, Childers’ Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven? confronted the contradictions of religion head-on.
These releases contain powerful messages that give hope, inspire boldness, and fuel necessary conversations. While his latest collection does not penetrate the same depths as these past anthologies, Rustin’ In The Rain still feels pertinent.
The seven-track album upon first listen sounds like a random sampling of simple paeans and rural anthems. Maybe it is. Maybe that’s exactly what we all need right now in this age of uncertainty - just some good songs we can live by and lean on. Within the compact release lives a medley of songs that are both playful and poignant, the intertwining message being one of love. Well, that and mules.
The album comes to life with the title-track, a head-spinning honky-tonk shuffle in which Childers bellows a desperate plea. “Do not let my heart just fall apart / Rustin in the rain”, he cries over racing strings and a resolute beat, begging to be used up. It is quickly met with a humbling reply in the solemn, yet intoxicating ballad, ‘Phone Calls and Emails’.
Like the latter, there are songs on Rustin’ In The Rain that pack a punch. The cover of the Kris Kristofferson-penned classic ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’, and the urgent rendition of S.G. Goodman’s ‘Space and Time’, both find Childers laying it all bare.
Other tunes, like the highly-strung ‘Luke 2:8-10’ and the zydeco-tinged ‘Percheron Mules’, offer the collection a foot-tapping reprieve. Each track on the album is so different, but all possess their own brief lessons in vulnerability, understanding and finding peace in the unknown.
When Childers first dropped the piano-powered ‘In Your Love’, it seemed to come out of left field. From the twinkle of the first few notes, the song sounded foreign. That notion, however, quickly fell away with the country star’s familiar croon. His earnest words slice through the delicate arrangement to do what they’ve always done: touch our hearts, alter our perceptions, change us in some small way.
Throughout the album, Childers continues to capture the complexities of rural life as he’s always done, carefully molding each narrative with his calloused hands and knowing heart. However, this time around, Childers seems to have shed his role of the deep holler prophet in favor of a more relaxed observer.
Overall, Rustin’ In The Rain is another stellar offering; not because it grapples with one singularly profound belief, but because it simply serves up a thoroughly satisfying tunes about hard living, harder loving and Percheron mules.
9 / 10
Tyler Childers' 2023 album, Rustin In The Rain, is out now via Hickman Holler Records / RCA Records.
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