Ever since he released his 2017 album Purgatory, the Kentucky singer and songwriter Tyler Childers has been one of the biggest stars in the world of rootsy country music. (Childers doesn’t like the word “Americana”; he likes to be known as a country musician. But Childers is a lot closer on the spectrum to his frequent collaborator Sturgill Simpson than he is to, like, Florida Georgia Line.) Last year, Childers followed up Purgatory with Country Squire, one of Stereogum’s favorite country albums of 2019. Today, he’s followed it up with Long Violent History, a powerful attempt to engage with a cultural moment.
Long Violent History has nine songs, and eight of those songs are lovely traditional fiddle-based instrumentals. The final song, also called “Long Violent History,” is a sparse, anguished waltz-time protest song. The song attacks all the police violence against Black people and the protests against it, and Childers does everything he can to make the points of the protests concrete to an audience who may be hostile to those protests: “In all my born days as a white boy from Hickman/ Based on the way that the world’s been to me/ It’s called me belligerent, it’s took me for ignorant/ But it ain’t never once made me scared just to be/ Could you imagine just constantly worrying/ Kicking, and fighting, and begging to breathe?”
In a video accompanying the album, Childers says that he’s heard from people in his audience who don’t understand the protest movement. Childers also lays out why he thinks it’s important to have empathy for people who are constantly made to fear for their lives. It’s a powerful display. Listen to the album and watch Childers’ video below.
Long Violent History is out now on Hickman Holler Records/RCA. All of the profits from the album are going to the Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund.