Tyler Childers 2022 album Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven was an impressive but somewhat daunting proposition. Only eight songs but with three different takes on each. It was a terrific set of songs delivered in a fabulous fusion of musical styles; country rock, country soul, funk, blues, but the sheer size of the project made for a rather overwhelming listening experience.
So it was something of a contrast to receive Rustin’ In The Rain, released via Hickman Holler Records/RCA Records is a wonderful, concise collection of seven songs (each delivered in one version!).
The seven tracks include five originals (some already known to fans from live shows) and two covers. It’s a joy to listen to such a tight, beautifully conceived and produced album, where the quality never wavers, which leaves you wanting more but just happy to go back and listen to it again.
There’s a distinct Elvis vibe running throughout… and it turns out that’s exactly what Tyler had in mind since, in the accompanying publicity notes he says “This is a collection of songs I playfully pieced together as if I was pitching a group of songs to Elvis’!”
There’s a second, loose recurring theme too. In Tyler’s own words in a recent US radio interview “the album has a lot of love songs, but if there’s a thread, it’s the mules”. This was apparently influenced by time Tyler spent, during the pandemic, working with mules, itself inspired by family history dating back to his grandpa & great uncle working with horses and mules. That equine influence is most obvious in the wonderful, fun Percheron Mules but also referenced in less likely ways in several other tracks, including the tremendous opening and title track, which uses horse-drawn equipment and harnessing as allusions for a fading love affair.
There’s another mule in the heartfelt In Your Love – the “single” that preceded the album. It’s a stunning song which became Tyler’s first ever top make the Billboard Hot 100, and his first Top Ten in the Hot Country Songs chart. It’s accompanied by a compelling video following two male coalminers as they navigate the challenges of a gay relationship in 1950s Appalachia. The song is not specifically about that relationship, it’s a love song for everyone, and Tyler has explained the video was partly inspired by creating a music video on CMT that would speak to his cousin and big brother, who are both gay.
Other highlights include a wonderful cover of Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night – it may seem the world didn’t need another version of such a widely covered song, but Tyler defies the odds with a terrific bluesy version featuring some brilliant guitar work. It’s right up there with definitive versions of the song.
Phone Call & Emails sounds like it could be a classic Elvis ballad – although the idea of Elvis singing about emails feels somewhat incongruous. The closing Space & Time is a cover of a song by S. G. Goodman, who joins him on both that track and “Luke 2:8-10”, which also features Margo Price & Erin Rae.
Recorded at Dragline Studios, the album was produced by Childers and The Food Stamps—James Barker (pedal steel), Craig Burletic (bass), CJ Cain (guitar), Rodney Elkins (drums), Chase Lewis (keyboards) and Jesse Wells (guitar, fiddle).
Overall, Tyler’s sixth album is right up there with his best work. If you already know him, it’s another essential addition to his catalogue. And if you’re not familiar with him, the concise running time makes it a perfect place to start.
RUSTIN’ IN THE RAIN TRACK LIST
1. Rustin’ In the Rain
2. Phone Calls and E-mails
3. Luke 2:8-10
4. Help Me Make It Through the Night
5. Percheron Mules
6. In Your Love
7. Space and Time
TYLER CHILDERS CONFIRMED UK/EU TOUR DATES
On-sale next Friday, September 15 at 9:00am local time
February 15, 2024—Dublin, Ireland—3Olympia~
February 17, 2024—Glasgow, U.K.—Barrowland Ballroom~
February 19, 2024—Manchester, U.K.—Albert Hall~
February 22, 2024—London, U.K.—Eventim Apollo~
February 26, 2024—Hamburg, Germany—Docks~
February 27, 2024—Copenhagen, Denmark—VEGA~
March 2, 2024—Amsterdam, Netherlands—Paradiso~
March 3, 2024—Amsterdam, Netherlands—Paradiso~
March 5, 2024—Stockholm, Sweden—Münchenbryggeriet~
March 6, 2024—Oslo, Norway—Sentrum Scene~
~with special guest John R. Miller