Record of the Week # 137

Tyler Childers – Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?

(I publish reviews that I have mainly written for Country Music People. In the past it included The Americana Music Show. And then on occasion without a publisher I review albums I personally wanted to write up: I hope to get back to that. Anyway, within the following review I make mention, to the readers, that I like Progressive Rock. I suspect that if you’ve been reading my reviews you’ll know that in any case!)

Name me some memorable triple albums? I’ll give you a clue, Woodstock and the Last Waltz by The Band but after this we’re all struggling, aren’t we? In fact, personally, I’d have to dig into a dark past and a love of progressive rock but I worry that we don’t know each other well enough for me to go there. However, in a world where we stream then a triple album is a less expensive and bulky project to deliver but it’s a lot to listen to and care about. Is releasing eight tracks in three versions worth it?

The three sets of eight are split into the ‘Hallelujah’ then ‘Jubilee’ and then ‘Joyful Noise’ versions. The first is a sound akin to Childers’ first two album releases (and the albums that placed him on the pedestal.) The powerful yearning Kentucky siren of a voice takes centre stage and the songs sweep you away. He lets his band, The Food Stamps, slip their shackles and play some easy but powerful bluesy rock music as a foundation. In line with their new found freedom there are some long instrumental passages and the title track is the killer cut. The second album ‘Jubilee’ is similar and whilst strings are added throughout his vocal remains similar, and too distinctive to allow the songs to have a different identity. However the string arrangements are very old school and bring to mind Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music from 1962. They are delightful. Charles covered Hank Williams and the opening song on the three albums is another Williams song Old Country Church.

In fact Childers is very attached to the heritage of country music and the Christian values that formed him. He always speaks with sincerity and has importance as a curator of contemporary roots music. A lot of work went into the production with gospel singers providing support and occasional ‘modern’ touches with electronic sounds and some sampled spoken word. Both albums are interesting and whilst they’re not covering new ground for Childers it’s a welcome return to form after the inexplicable and scratchy Long Violent History that might have had a worthy ambition of speaking out on racism but for fans, who innocently shelled out their hard earned cash, it was a major disappointment.

If that was a poor investment then album three, ‘Joyous Noise’, is an indulgence and disposable. I like and have a lot of late 90s electronica and Childers knows the genre well judging by this. We get lots of rumbling bass dance beats with occasional interesting vocal samples but they drone on with you inevitably reaching for fast forward. His voice disappears on Disc 3 and frankly it would take a boxset of Miss Marple to try and identify and relate the versions of these songs to Discs 1 and 2.

He remains an interesting listen and there’s a lot to selectively like here. Be selective.

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