Preview Purgatory by Tyler Childers.
Purgatory by Tyler Childers
Purgatory by Tyler Childers will be another candidate for those crowded end of year lists. Whilst Americana will claim him, this is proper Country before auto tune, rehab and the major labels sanitized it. It is saturated with violins, guitars, banjo and tunes to die for. There is a lot of music out there to catch your ear but Childers, helped no end by the production of Sturgill Simpson and sound engineer, par excellence, David Ferguson, has been helped to release a fabulous record that show cases his talent brilliantly.
He’s paid his dues and these songs drip with life’s experiences and make for heartfelt stories that tell you about his early, rebellious, and often dissolute lifestyle. Like Simpson, he hails from east Kentucky, a land of densely wooded hillsides, semi-trailer trucks hauling coal on narrow roads, and no little deprivation. His picture of life comes against this backdrop and makes for a compelling listen.
He started singing “Feathered Indians” in 2014 and in 2017 it makes it out. This lilting acoustic guitar melody, complimented by violin, is an awkward love song of a man who starts to emerge from wayward ways to see that something is worth reforming for:
Looking over West Virginia smoking spirits on the roof
She asked ‘ain’t anybody told you that them things are bad for you?’
I said ‘many folks have warned me, there’s been several people try
But up until now there ain’t been nothing that I couldn’t leave behind’
The voice is his passport to stardom – demanding, tuneful, expressive, and with a smidgeon of loud ‘Outlaw’ edge. “Honky Tonk Flame" pulls all this together and we have the troubadour drifting from bar to bar and suddenly finding "the love of a woman was all that he needs;" with this anchor then he’s more complete but:
Still on the road ‘cause I ain’t good for nothing
Except writing the songs that I sing
Beating them strings like their owing me money
And chasing that honky tonk flame
“Whitehouse Road” has that Steve Earle country rock chug and yet more talk of "running these roads" with moonshine along the back roads of Kentucky. A belter of a track that really benefits from Simpson’s band behind him.
Purgatory, I feel, is the closing of a chapter. He sees his youthful path as full of missteps forming him but out of the darkness comes the hope. Childers and this album deserve a big future. Buy it.