01 October, 2020

Tyler Childers Pushes Back On Southern Values And Our 'Long, Violent History'


The song "Long Violent History" plays out the internal argument that led Childers to make this explicit and remarkable stand in solidarity. It's a lament grounded in bluegrass fiddle and that fundamental African import, the banjo. Presenting himself as a confused "white boy from Hickman" who once understood how the protests might feel like unnecessary trouble, Childers artfully bends perspective at the ballad's center, realizing that for all the times he'd belligerently questioned authority, he'd never felt like he might lose his life. Echoing a long line of labor and other protest songs, Childers asks how many "boys could they haul off this mountain" until their parents, their loved ones, would get out Papaw's pistol and fight back. "Would that be the start of a long, violent history?" he asks. The tune ends with a sonic invocation of the long, violent history of American white supremacy: a few lines of "My Old Kentucky Home," a minstrel ballad written by Stephen Foster, complete with racist depictions of enslaved people.

Childers has taken a chance with this song – in the video, he explains that the eight instrumental songs that precede it on his new album were well-considered as stage-setters for this final, controversial act.