If you’re a reader of this site, you’ve likely read one of the many articles that I have written about Kentucky’s newest favorite son, Tyler Childers. If this is your first time here, feel free to take a look around, but more importantly, thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy what we do here.
When an artist returns to their home state, it is always a love fest and attending those shows are my favorite activity in life. I’ve seen wonderfully talented folks return home for a show. Folks like Dwight Yoakam, Sundy Best, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, The Kentucky Headhunters, Black Stone Cherry and of course, Mr. Tyler Childers.
Tyler’s meteoric rise has been an incredible journey to watch and one that we’ve been honored to help document. Late last year, we saw Tyler at Zanzabar in Louisville with John R. Miller and William Matheny. They played to a room full of about 400 or so people. (You can see photos from that show here.) And even before that, we saw Tyler acoustically at the Moonshiner’s Ball, which saw maybe sixty people enjoy his early set. This year, Tyler is playing three sold-out shows at the Louisville Palace to close out the year. The Palace holds about 2600 people, so roughly 7800 folks paid to see Tyler close out 2018. Granted with a following that is reminiscent of the early days of the Grateful Dead like Tyler has, there were quite a few that bought tickets to all three shows, but that type of following didn’t happen by accident.
We will get to the show in just a bit, but I want to focus your attention on something that Tyler is doing and most folks will have no clue as to why it’s important. I’ve been involved with music in many different facets and one of the things that used to annoy me to anger was a tour buy-on. Essentially, a band or artist uses lesser known bands to generate some revenue and pay for advertising and such. The band that I once managed had to do a buy-on, essentially fell apart the second tour. It’s a crappy business model and one that props up older, more accomplished artists.
With Tyler Childers, if you look at his past tours and shows, is doing things entirely different. Each artist that has toured with Tyler, have all been friends of Tyler. As a former band manager and fellow Kentuckian, that’s a damn big deal. Tyler is gaining in notoriety while dragging his friends along for the ride. That is a beautiful thing. Take this weekend for the ultimate example. Tyler has had different opening bands each night. All of which have been friends. Arlo McKinley, Blank Range, William Matheny, Larry Cordle (Who is a major influence of Tyler’s music.) And the three-night stand ended with John R. Miller and Blackfoot Gypsies. For me, I respect the hell out of that. While most folks are taking bribes, essentially, Tyler is dragging his friends with him.
Hell, think about this, David Prince or as most know him, The Laid Back Country Picker, took the Ryman stage with Tyler’s band, The Food Stamps, before Tyler ever took the stage. That’s called respect and it is what makes me so incredibly proud of Tyler and his entire camp.
Having said all of that, onto the show!
When you think about New Year’s Eve, you usually are facing snow and cold temperatures, but not in 2018. Nope, it was 65 degrees and raining. 65 degrees and raining, I can’t believe that I just typed that. We made our way to the Louisville Palace for what promised to be a real barn burner as the older folks like to say. A shindig or a hootenanny. Whatever ya wanna call it, it had the best damn soundtrack of anywhere around!
Opening the night was the man that I’ve dubbed as the Hemingway of West Virginia. Mr. John R. Miller has inspired many artists and that list includes Mr. Tyler Childers. In fact, Tyler covers “Coming Down”, which was originally written and performed by John during his days in Prison Book Club. You can find Tyler’s version on his recently reissued ‘Live At Red Barn Radio I & II”. I half expected Tyler to come out and join John when he ended his 30 minute set with it.
As I mentioned earlier, Tyler is doing his best to drag his friends along and as Tyler’s popularity continues to grow, so does John R. Miller’s. John writes songs that seemingly say something prolific with each listen. Having seen him several times over the past year, I knew what to expect, but many around us seemed to be getting their first taste. As folks asked questions, I was proud to help spread the Gospel that is John R. Miller.
John captivated many and he performed in his usual nonchalant, easy come, easy go but still cool way. Accompanied by Chloe Edmonstone on the fiddle and harmonies, John performed some of my favorites. A few of which are included on his ‘The Trouble You Follow”, which we were lucky enough to debut here. I was elated to hear “Red Eyes” and “Holy Dirt”, in such an abbreviated set, but my favorite performance was “Back And Forth.”
Next up were the Blackfoot Gypsies. I caught the tail end of their set at the Moonshiner’s Ball in 2017 (I think it was there. Lol), so I was eager to catch an entire set from them. Thankfully, they did not disappoint. Playing between two prolific songwriters on the bill, what the Blackfoot Gypsies brought was energy. With a lot of folks already lit from pregaming, these guys came out strong and truly got the party started.
From the Chuck Berry strut to the honeybadger head, they had your attention whether you wanted em to or not. Add in two drummers and we were sonically attacked and most didn’t see it coming, and the many drunks probably are trying to figure out what hit them. My favorite tunes on the night from some of Nashville’s finest rock ‘n’ rollers were “Truck Driving Song” and “Potato And Whiskey.”
The next artist needs no introduction, but I’ll give ya one anyways. Lawrence County’s Tyler Childers took to the stage on night number three, where he was immediately met with droves of folks standing up to show their respect. Tyler flashed a quick grin and so it began.
Knowing that a few in the crowd were casual listeners or new fans that have only discovered ‘Purgatory’ this far, Tyler went ahead and performed “Whitehouse Road”, the track that has served him well as an introduction. They followed that up with “Tattoos.”
Tyler has been working and writing and touring for years, he is far from an overnight sensation. It is absolutely wonderful to watch an artist grow like we all have with Tyler and the one thing that I’ve noticed is that the fans sing along to the unreleased songs just as much as they do those that are readily available.
Folks know songs like “Deadman’s Curve”, “Shake The Frost”, “Charleston Girl” and “Born Again”, but when folks belt out songs like “Gemini”, “Peace Of Mind” and “Take My Hounds To Heaven”, you get a glimpse into just how special Tyler is as an artist and you see how deep his connection is with his fans.
Tyler’s lyrics, I feel, will be held in the same regard as John Prine. His songs seem to have moments where the crowd has somehow met in the alley and decided, “Let’s scream as loud as we can in these spots.” While that is a great testament to Tyler’s songwriting, for me it’s the perfect indicator of just how well Tyler understands people. It’s a connection that many artists only dream about, but nearly every song seems to have a moment. Take “I Swear To God” as an example, when the line “Fire In The Hole” comes up, cover the kiddos ears because it can be almost deafening!
Playing a roughly two-hour set, Childers and the Food Stamps kept it mostly originals, but they did sneak in four cover songs on the night. But if you were there and I didn’t tell you they were covers, I’ll bet you couldn’t pick em out. Why? Glad you asked, because they make them their own.
“Tulsa Turnaround” has been in their set for a while now, “Long Long Time To Grow Old” is the newest addition from Great Speckled Bird, the Charlie Daniels track “Trudy” ended the night, but I want to touch on a specific one here. Taking a moment to share his love for Dr. Hook and the news that Ray Sawyer had passed that day, Tyler performed “I Got Stoned And I Missed It” in tribute. Dr. Hook also covered the song, which was originally penned by Shel Silverstein. Tyler and the band have been performing that one for some time, but it certainly held more meaning on Monday night. Each of those songs embody everything that a Childers song has and delivers, making them fit into the set seamlessly.
6,098 Likes, 96 Comments – Tyler Childers (@timmytychilders) on Instagram: “RIP Ray Sawyer. You and all the Dr. Hook gang really twisted my mind at an early age. Freaking at…”
Several newer songs were played for us. A personal favorite in “Peace Of Mind” and my son’s favorite, “Take My Hounds To Heaven” were definite highlights, but the crowd seemed a bit more enthused for “Bus Route” and the best masturbation song since “Turning Japanese” in “Ever Lovin’ Hand”.
Childers biggest hit so far has been “Feathered Indians” and the crowd had been anticipating this one and when Tyler began singing, I couldn’t hear him in the balcony, because the crowd was drowning him out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all, because I was also a loud voice in the crowd. In fact, as I stood there thinking back about the journey to this point, I was overwhelmed with pride and simply could not stop smiling.
I haven’t been on the Tyler train as long as some of my friends, but over the past twenty months or so, I have given my all to document his journey. Capture Kentucky has grown a lot and we do owe some of that success to Tyler and his camp and for me personally, “Feathered Indians” was the most beautiful moment of the night and I will forever be grateful that I was able to witness it.
Another cool aspect though, was seeing two songs that have built hype simply from the success of YouTube videos. “Redneck Romeo” and “Messed Up Kid” were both brilliant and I’ll say this now, “Messed Up Kid” whenever Tyler records it, will be a hit. In fact, I think that is the song that could make Country Radio actually listen. At this point, Tyler doesn’t need them, but they do need him.
As the clock struck midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling and Lady May ran out to give Tyler his well deserved embrace. If there ever were a more storybook ending than that, I’ve never seen it.
Love y’all! Bring it 2019!