Tyler Childers has made a career of only doing whatever the hell he wants. Whether it’s releasing a triple LP of gospel songs, opting not to move to Nashville when everyone says that he should, or releasing a video telling the story of two queer coal miners, he’s going to do his thing, and you can choose (or not) to take that ride with him. The man who famously said, “Americana ain’t no part of nothin’” while accepting an Americana Award has taken his own understated route toward becoming what country music has been short on for years – an outlaw who’s not just playing a part and not mixing genres, but simply telling the stories of his people. And, if you were at the jam-packed Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre in Greenwood Village, Colorado (just outside of Denver) this past Saturday, you could see how well that simple, no-BS approach lands.
Fresh off two nights at nearby Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where he was joined by this year’s AMA Emerging Artist (and fellow Kentuckian) S.G. Goodman, Childers brought different openers down the hill from Morrison. Bluegrassers The Travelin’ McCourys have awards (fiddle player Jason Carter just won an International Bluegrass Music Association Award) and hits (they own the current Number One song in bluegrass, a lively take on the Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon,” sung beautifully by bassist Alan Bartram), but their wholesome, harmony-filled approach to string band music was the exact fit to open an evening of Appalachian music (and their cover of Waylon Jennings’ “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” was absolute nails).
Next up was Ashland, Kentucky’s Wynonna Judd, who’s still a damn powerhouse, playing with house money and without an ounce of give-a-sh!t. Between exchanges with a rowdy fan, and backed by a band of ace players, Wynonna ripped through Judds classics – “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” – and more recent material while educating some of the younger concertgoers on the staying power of late 80s/early 90s country music.
Tyler Childers has started some of his recent shows with a solo acoustic set, but on this night, he did not take the stage alone. Not only was he backed by his full band, but Wynonna joined Childers for the first song, “Ways of the Triune God,” one of the tracks from the aforementioned gospel album, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? The McCourys also popped back on stage several times, because, like Wynonna, they are most definitely Tyler’s kind of people. Childers also did a mini set on fiddle (an instrument he only picked up in recent years) giving the stage, for a moment, THREE fiddle players
Over the course of the 24-song set, Childers and his accomplices touched on all phases of his varied career, from more gospel (an outstanding cover of “The Old Country Church”) to Purgatory-era favorites “Whitehouse Road” and “Lady May” (the latter was part of the eventual acoustic set, and the crowd added its own hushed vocals to Childers’ love song to his wife, singer Senora May). The most rousing moment of the evening was “In Your Love,” the lead single from Childers’ recent release, Rustin’ in the Rain. It’s the song with the “controversial” video, but at its heart, it’s a universally applicable love song, and this crowd got it – everyone was standing, everyone was singing, and seemingly no one left in an ill-advised culture-war snit. And that’s Tyler Childers in a nutshell. Take away the fantastic band, the out-of-this-world light show, and the trolls that object to how other folks live their lives – Childers is just out on the road, touring and telling stories. And he tells them better, and with more honesty, than just about anyone.
For future Tyler Childers tour dates, go here: https://tylerchildersmusic.com/pages/tour-dates
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Show Review: Tyler Childers Brings in the New Year at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville, KY