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Tyler Childers keeps backcountry sound

4.5 Stars out of 5

     This is Maine. People pick blueberries and potatoes, own lobster boats, canoe down wild rivers and across pristine lakes and scour the County for moose. But every now and then, don’t you need something to listen to while you cruise down I-95 with the window open and an elbow out in the sun? Or while you sit on the porch, smoking a pipe and watching the sun go down over the Appalachians? Maybe you just need a song to listen to while you fix that wire fence for the third time and curse at those cows that keep busting through to get to your neighbor’s pasture? You might be thinking to yourself, “woah, that got a little backwoods country a little fast.” It sure did, folks, it’s a country album.

            Tyler Childers’ new album “Country Squire” checks just about all those boxes and then some. Do you want a little sad-time music — something of a soundtrack for bad days? Give “Creeker” a shot. Maybe you’re having a bit of a rags-to-riches day. “Country Squire” (the song, not the whole album) might be a good fit. The point is, there’s something for just about everyone. The rough-and-tumble honky-tonk Childers brings to the stage makes equal use of the six-string and the fiddle, plus a jaw harp at one point. Now of course, one question lingers: does it have a banjo part? Yes, it does. It’s country, so by law, it must have a banjo part. It even has an overt reference to living by a paper mill in the titular song, so even if you might not feel like you’re country enough yet, you can at least listen to one song that can be applied to an alarming majority of Mainers. 

            Childers’ style of Appalachian country is just about as close as you can get to the working-class American theme. One of his songs, “Bus Route,” covers a childhood crush he had on a classmate and how they talked on the bus ride home from middle school. “House Fire” is a coldly determined bit, a love song from the hardened heart of a blue-collar East Kentuckian. 

The majority of Childers’ work is a story, a long one, about the day to day of average people, working paycheck to paycheck and trying to have a good time in between. The country-western — almost bluegrass — sound is one that would sound just as at home at a performance for thousands as it would in an almost-empty bar with bourbon-stained floorboards and not enough light. Childers and his band give the listener the feeling that they’re hearing something that’s usually only reserved for a few backcountry folk at a bar almost nobody frequents. All in all, it’s an interesting album from a band and a singer that made it big but can still put each individual listener back in the plastic chairs of that imaginary bar, and they’re still holding on to the classic twang and tale of a back-country Appalachian country band.


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