Without a whisper of notice, Kentucky country troubadour Tyler Childers debuted a new album Friday.
Called “Long Violent History,” Childers’ latest work features a collection of instrumental fiddle tunes — “Send In The Clowns,” “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” “Camp Chase,” “Midnight on the Water” and more.
The album closes with “Long Violent History,” a Childers original that finds the singer addressing civil unrest and systemic racism.
Tyler Childers performs at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com)
He sings, “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?”
The song continues with the 29-year-old Appalachian songwriter offering, “How many boys could they haul off this mountain/ Shoot full of holes, cuffed and laying in the street/ ‘Til we come into town in a stark raving anger/ Looking for answers, and armed to the teeth.”
Childers posted Friday a six-minute video monologue offering context to “Long Violent History.” The old time instrumental track lay a sonic landscape for “Long Violent History,” a song Childers described as an “observational piece for the times we are in.”
As multiple instances of perceived police brutality led to protesters pleading for systemic racial reform this summer, Childers called “our inability to empathize with another individual or groups’ plight” a primary cause for unrest.
In one of the sharpest condemnations of racism delivered by a white country artist during the ongoing protests, Childers asked “what if” white, rural listeners of his music — “I don’t mean to I don’t mean to imply that many of you aren’t already doing good self-examination on this issue but I have heard from many who have not,” he said — woke up to a headline reading ‘East Kentucky man shot 7 times on fishing trip’?
He asked what if another headline read ‘Ashland Community and Technical College nursing student shot in her sleep,’ drawing a parallel to a police shooting that resulted in the publicized death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville earlier this year.
“What form of upheaval would that create?” Childers said. “I’d venture to say if we were met with this type of daily attack on our people we would take action in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia.”
He continued, “And 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?”
Noting in the video six months of sobriety that provided him a “clarity to find some good,” Childers urged those who “feel seemingly outside of these issues” to vote against leaders who’ve let continued racism “go unnoticed” — the same representatives who’ve “watched job opportunity shipped out and drugs shipped in,” he said
He followed a call to the polls by asking listeners to “stop being so taken back” by the Black Lives Matter movement and to celebrate Southern heritage without “lazily defending a flag with history steeped in racism and treason.”
The latter notes an ongoing tension between those calling to remove Confederate monuments — including figures in Middle Tennessee — and individuals arguing for historical preservation.
“If we didn’t need to be reminded, there would be justice for Breonna Taylor — a Kentuckian like me — and countless others, Childers said, adding in close: “Love each other, no exceptions. And remember: united we stand, divided we fall.”
Proceeds from “Long Violent History” benefit undeserved communities in the Appalachian region via Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund. Childers and songwriter-wife Senora May established the fund this year, per the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee website.
“Long Violent History” follows Childers’ 2019 “Country Squire,” an album that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart. “Country Squire” featured “All Your’n,” a track that earned Childers a Best Country Solo Performance nomination at the 2020 Grammy Awards.
And “… History” marks the second digital release from Childers this year, following a Spotify Singles session featuring Ricky Skaggs, Larry Cordle and The Travelin’ McCourys.
More: Tyler Childers: Tall tales and personal truths from the beating heart of Appalachia
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