Rejoice and be happy, Outsiders! Tyler Childers dropped his new album Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? and blessed us all with a Good Friday. When Childers released the lead single from this project, “Angel Band,” there were a lot of mixed reviews from country music fans and casual observers. An album that is three sets of the same tracks, each labeled with a supposed theme? But this was always going to be something bigger than it appeared to be.
This is an album I stayed up late into the night and played all the way through and have played a couple of more times in its entirety since. The evolution of Tyler Childers is not complete, but it is ongoing and should excite fans.
The greatest joy out of this album is taking the “Hallelujah” songs and the “Jubilee” songs and working out the differences. Beyond the addition of voiceovers and other obvious examples in the latter portion, the subtlety is what really gets me energized and sends chills down my back at times.
In this first portion, we hear the use of an organ. The tracks are more straight-laced and a bit somber at times. Of course, we can’t overlook the evolution of “Purgatory” as we analyze the evolution of Tyler Childers himself. The title track off his first studio album, it’s no coincidence that it has been included here. It was just over a year ago when I wrote about that funky version of the song he performed at the Under the Big Sky Festival. Who knew that it would be so integral to this newest project?
Always true to his roots, a student of history, and someone who is not afraid to take risks in his music, it feels as though this was a true passion project from the artist and his band. Let’s not forget this amazing band he has behind him. The group has been together more or less with the same lineup for years, and it shows. Each time we hear them put something out, we get more of a complete sound.
Ending with “Heart You’ve Been Tendin'” brings this track list together. A little rock n’ roll to end things right before “Jubilee” starts up. This is a great song that features some of the best instrumentation on the album.
Let’s Have a Jubilee
Then we get to what is my favorite of the three sections on this album. “Jubilee” feels like a celebration of everything that is good. We get a ton more trumpet and brass section in general. The brass brightens things up. It interjects and demands to be heard, and it demands joy and celebration. Jubilee! This is not praise-and-worship by any means. This is to sing and give thanks to God because it is good to do so. Or to be kind to your fellow man because it is good to do so. That there is good in life because life is good.
The addition of Tyler delivering Bible verses gives this the concept alum feel that it needs. This really is an art project above all else, I think. It gets more “weird” as we go on. There is more depth to these songs, he adds samples and vocals to “Two Coats” and the song “Jubilee,” which makes it something completely different than what it was in the previous version.
Since it is brightened up, it feels so much different in tone and attitude. Mixing this must have been a challenge but also so much fun. If you can’t bob up and down and bounce around while listening to “Way of the Triune God” I’m not sure what to tell you. The music is funky, it’s got soul, it’s rooted in mountain heritage and traditions all dragged into the 21st century, made into something else entirely.
Tyler Childers Makes Joyful Noise
I don’t imagine everyone will be a huge fan of “Joyful Noise.” However, what it represents and shows is something I love. He takes these concepts and these songs, which are already made up of a woven fabric of different styles and influences, and he makes them abstract. This music felt as though you could almost touch it because what it was depicting is so real, then it’s made into Joyful Noise.
This is kind of a new thing with artists in the vein of Dave Cobb, Sturgill Simpson, and the like. So, it isn’t surprising to see Tyler Childers do something like this. It is a great attempt at deconstruction and production that is unique and fun to listen to. Country music doesn’t have to be one thing or another. This is a genre that can defy norms and go beyond the standard.
Tyler Childers put together a piece of audio art here. We have all watched as he has evolved his sound and music throughout the years. This newest iteration is quite possibly the best. That is until the next album comes out.
Listen to it, enjoy it.