ACL Live Review: Tyler Childers

No honky-tonk masquerade this bracing, backwoods moonshine

Amid the flash and pop of ACL Fest 2019, Tyler Childers stands out by moving in the opposite direction. The American Express mainstage nearly swallowed the Kentucky songwriter and his fivepiece as they tore through his hour-long afternoon set Friday, but their hard-driving hillbilly country proved powerful enough to encompass mass adulation.

Photo by Gary Miller

Opening with “Whitehouse Road” from 2017’s launching pad Purgatory, Childers kept it tight and simple through the bruising “Dead Man’s Curve” and fiddle-licked “Born Again.” That slid them into funky jam “Tulsa Turnaround.” The frontman let the backing electric and steel guitars do the heavy lifting to his acoustic, which torqued the tension of his low-key, high-twang delivery and the rumbling breakdowns swirling behind him.

That tension focuses Childers’ music, emphasized by the trailer park tripping, neon pagan backdrop the musicians brought with them. Songs of fast living balanced with a pull of backwoods simplicity are less the standard Saturday night/Sunday morning country dichotomy than the internal journey their author travels in the similar wake of his producer and mentor Sturgill Simpson’s standout Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.

The appeal is a broad one that casts beyond just country, driven by the songwriter’s simple yet poetic turns of phrase, uncompromisingly deep holler settings, and willingness to explore outside of the box both in sound and sentiment. It’s a complex rural renaissance that thrives in exploring the contradictions of modern America under Childers’ hard and intimidating stare.

Most impressive is the journey the blazing redhead takes the crowd on. The set moved through moonshine and cocaine-fueled backroads to ballads of nostalgia and regret in “Bus Stop” and “Creeker” from new LP Country Squire. Rolling to the edge of a tentative redemption, “Lady May” and closer “Nose on the Grindstone” touched down for a smooth landing.

Tyler Childers doesn’t pretend to have any answers, but he and his growing legion of fans at the ACL Fest mainstage proved one and all are enjoying the search for them.


Tyler Childers

Friday, Oct. 4, 3:30pm, American Express stage

Check out our daily ACL coverage with previews, reviews, interviews, photos, and more.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Tyler Childers
Tyler Childers’ Universal Sound
Tyler Childers’ Universal Sound
High lonesome and dark-hollered grit

Doug Freeman, July 20, 2018

More by Doug Freeman
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

May 14, 2021

New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

May 14, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Tyler Childers, ACL fest 2019, Sturgill Simpson

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle