Plenty of Americana artists talk the talk, but few are able to say they've walked the walk like Tyler Childers has.
Upon the release of Childers' breakout 2017 disc, "Purgatory," listeners were hit with an authenticity that's missing from many of his contemporaries in the roots music genre.
Hailing from the Eastern Kentucky hills, the singer-songwriter populates his songs with characters that feel true to life — because they are. Songs like "Whitehouse Road," featuring characters bragging that the local moonshine "get me higher than the grocery bill," speak of a life where illicit substances keep you warm on cold nights surrounded by nothing but boredom.
To be clear, for those attending Childers' show at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro June 3, it's not all doom and gloom within these tales from Kentucky. There is a bluegrass-and-gospel component to the singer's material, guaranteed to have the crowd bopping to these love stories for a life he's most likely left behind, if not for a visit here and there between tours that are sure to keep him busy for the immediate future.
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Here's a cheat sheet for those who haven't given "Purgatory" a spin, yet still want to be seen at the hippest concert on the calendar this week.
1. Recording a breakthrough
When it came to selecting the right producer for the album, Childers used a chance meeting with an Americana superstar after a show in Nashville to fill the job. Introduced to Sturgill Simpson (Metamodern Sounds in Country Music) by his drummer, the two hit it off well enough for Simpson — along with onetime Johnny Cash engineer David Ferguson — to offer his services behind the boards while Childers recorded his breakthrough. Simpson hasn't been rumored for any further production gigs.
2. Success means change
Childers always has been a writer who requires solitude to compose his music, preferring time alone from any distractions, where he can feel free to think about exactly what he wants each song to say. Now he's more likely to put pen to paper in the middle of a cramped touring van, with the hum of the tires on the road filling the interior, working as an improvised white noise machine for the scribe.
3. Expect to hear some new music
Childers plays two hours on a headlining show, give or take a few minutes. "Purgatory" is only 38 minutes long. The singer is using his tour to test new material that may or may not find itself onto the next album, with the repetition of playing the songs-in-progress acting as an indicator of whether he likes it enough to commit himself to singing it for years down the road.
4. 'The Mountain Sound'
Between meeting Childers and signing on to be his producer, Simpson listened to a handful of songs that the young singer sent him and instantly recognized what the songwriter was attempting to find within the creative process that became "Purgatory." "(Simpson) said, 'There's this sound. I know what you're trying to get at, the mountain sound,'" Childers recalled, according to his website.
The two bonded over their shared desire to create music that would have that "gritty mountain sound," while also being accessible enough to the other members of their generation that it wouldn't just be critically praised but ignored by the public.
5. He's embracing the North Carolina mountains, too
Childers is one of the bevy of guest stars making an appearance on the sixth studio album of Asheville-based bluegrass outfit Town Mountain. Childers co-wrote a tune on the disc as well. With Childers' name attached, this could be the album that finally breaks Town Mountain into the upper echelon of the bluegrass mainstream. The album is rumored to be called "New Freedom Bluesdropping" with Oct. 5 as an anticipated release.
Who: Tyler Childers with Liz Cooper & the Stampede
When: 8 p.m. June 3
Where: Cat's Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro
Cost: Sold out
Info: 919-967-9053 or CatsCradle.com