Tyler Childers’ Surprise ‘Long Violent History’ Album Addresses Systemic Racism [LISTEN]
Tyler Childers surprise-released a brand-new album on Friday (Sept. 18), using his platform to, largely without fanfare, express his opinions on systemic racism, Southern pride and empathy. Long Violent History is a nine-song, mostly instrumental record that concludes with its weighty, thoughtful title track.
Old-time fiddle songs titled, among other things, "Squirrel Hunter," "Midnight on the Water" and "Bonaparte's Retreat," lead into "Long Violent History." Like its predecessors, the song is a classic, fiddle-driven track featuring plucky banjo and other instrumentation; unlike the others, Childers wrote it specifically for the occasion, and his unmistakable voice is disturbed by opinions, hate and lies paraded as facts and empathizing with the people of color who have been angered into action by decades of systemic racism.
"It's the worst that it's been since the last time it happened / It's happening again right in front of our eyes," Childers opens, before musing, "Now what would you get if you heard my opinion conjecturing on matters that I ain’t never dreamed / In all my born days, this 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 begging to breathe?"
In a video message accompanying the release of Long Violent History, Childers explains that the eight preceding songs on the album are "intended to create a sonic soundscape for the listener to set the tone to reflect on the last track." He asks his listeners -- specifically the "rural, white" ones -- to consider how they would react if it were fellow rural white people being killed without reason, in the same ways that Black men and women such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have been.
"How would we react to that? What form of a people would that create?" Childers asks. "If we wouldn't stand for it, why would we expect another group of Americans to stand for it? Why would we stand silent while it happened, or worse, get in the way of it being rectified?
"These aren't things this community has lost. These are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and cousins, mothers and fathers -- irreplaceable threads within their family fiber, torn from their loved ones too soon with no justice, and they are demanding change, same as I expect we would," he continues. "Life is hard enough without being worried about the smallest interaction with a public servant."
An album introduction from noted old-time musician Dom Flemons explains that Childers and bandmate Jesse Wells "meticulously curated a modern string band," dubbed the Pickin' Crew, for the recording of Long Violent History: Flemons, John Haywood, Andrew Marlin, Josh Oliver, John R. Miller, Chloe Edmonstone and Cecelia Wright convened in an eastern Kentucky studio for the project. Childers and Wells co-produced the record.
All proceeds from Long Violent History will benefit the Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund. The organization, founded by Childers and his wife Senora May, assists with philanthropic efforts in Appalachia.
Long Violent History is Childers' first new album since 2019's Country Squire. The No. 1 country album also earned Childers a Best Country Solo Performance nomination at the 2020 Grammy Awards, for the song "All Your'n."
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