This story has been updated.
Well shoot, thank you Tyler Childers.
Completely unexpectedly and totally unannounced, the current king of independent country music dropped a surprise record early Friday morning (9-18) called Long Violent History. No, you won’t find a cache of new original songs to fit in line with “Feathered Indians” and “House Fire.” This is a record of old traditional fiddle tunes that Tyler Childers has been sawing on as he’s been perfecting his work with a fiddle and bow over the past few months, with one notable exception.
Earlier this year during numerous live performances, Tyler Childers began impressing crowds by pulling a fiddle out and performing old fiddle songs, including “Send In The Clowns” which starts off the 9-song set. In a BBC interview in late May, Tyler also talked about his newfound love for the instrument, though his practice routine was put on the damper after he broke his collarbone riding a motorcycle.
You shouldn’t be too surprised Tyler Childers has taken a shine to the fiddle, and not just because his Kentucky roots run so deep. One of the primary members of his backing band The Foodstamps is fiddle player and guitarist Jesse Wells. His nickname of “The Professor” is not just a happenstance. Wells is an instructor at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music operated by Morehead State University, and has been since the institution opened in 2000. He’s also responsible for The Traditional Music Archives of the institution.
Long Violent History is released via RCA and Tyler’s imprint Hickman Holler Records. Though the first eight songs are fiddle standards, the final title track is an original new song written by Tyler Childers that speaks to the acrid moments we find ourselves in, yet styled as an old fiddle tune to fit with the rest of the record.
It’s the worst that it’s been, since the last time it happened
It’s happening again right in front of our eyes.
It’s updated footage, and wild speculation
Tall tales and hearsay, and absolute lies.
Been passed off as factual, when actually the actual
Causes they’re awkwardly blocking the way.
Keeping us all from enjoying our evening
Shoving its roots through the screens in our face.
Now what would you give, if you heard my opinion
Conjecturing on matters that I ain’t never dreamed.
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.
How many boys could they haul off this mountain
Shoot full of holes, cuffed and laid in the streets.
‘Till we come into town, in stark raving anger
Looking for answers, and armed to the teeth.
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UPDATE 9/18 7:30 CDT: Tyler Childers has also released an accompanying video explaining the album and the title track. It can be seen below.
“Back in June when I wrote the song ‘Long Violent History,’ it was my original goal to continue to make fairly legible sounds on fiddle, and put this album out with no announcements or press. I planned to package it as an old-time fiddle album, and let the piece make the statement on its own, taking the listener by surprise at the end. However there has been concern that the album could run the risk of being misinterpreted if not given some sort of accompanying explanation to set it in context. A writer can write an essay, but the writer can never predict, or control how that essay is interpreted by the reader, be it in a ton of level-headed calmness, or preachy, holier-than-thou, condescending way.”
“As a recovering alcoholic who has drunk and drugged himself around the world playing music for the better part of eleven years, and now has six months of sobriety, I can say with clarity, that I have no soap box to stand on, to talk preachy to anyone on anything, be it the word of God, or the condition of the world.”
Tyler Childers goes on to address the killing of Black Americans by police, including fellow Kentuckian Breonna Taylor, saying in part, “We can stop being so taken aback by Black Lives Matter … we can start looking for ways to preserve our heritage outside lazily defending a flag with history steeped in racism and treason, things like huing a log, carving a bowl, learning a fiddle tune, growing a garden, raising some animals, canning our own food, hunting and processing the animal, fishing, blacksmithing, trapping, and tanning the hide. Sewing a quilt. And if we did things like that, we’d have a lot less time to argue back and forth over things we don’t fully know, backed by news we can’t fully trust. Love each other, no exceptions, and remember, united we stand, divided we fall.”
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Long Violent History appears to be a digital-only release for the moment.
This story has been updated.