Well, how’s this for an unexpected Friday album drop? Kentucky mountain bard Tyler Childers has released “Long Violent History,” an instrumental collection of traditional fiddle tunes—and one powerful statement.
Childers’ appreciation for mountain music is well documented, and recently he’s taken up the fiddle for himself, giving fans glimpses into his progress by breaking it out on occasion during live shows. “Long Violent History” celebrates the cornerstone of Appalachian music with traditional-style tunes pulled straight from the public domain, including “Jenny Lynn,” “Squirrel Hunter,” and “Camp Chase,” as well as a version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
Childers recruited a truly incredible band—multi-instrumentalist and Grammy winner Dom Flemons, bandmate Jesse Wells (fiddle), Chloe Edmonstone (fiddle), John Haywood (banjo), Andrew Marlin (mandolin), Josh Oliver (guitar), John R. Miller (bass), Cecilia Wright (cello), Big Head Joe (giant 6-string banjo), and Jenny Lynn (stone mason jug). The Pickin’ Crew crafts a timeless mountain sound that feels just as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.
As refreshing and fun as the old-time string music is, it’s all setting the stage for the album’s closing title track, which offers a stark look at our current racial and political landscape.
“Long Violent History” makes no bones about Childers’ sympathy for the Black community during this period of unrest and uprising. And he asks his fellow white rural Kentuckians to consider how we would react if placed in a similar situation:
How many boys could they haul off this mountain,
Shoot full of holes, cuffed and layin’ in the streets,
‘Til they’d come into town in stark raving anger
Looking for answers, and armed to the teeth?
In case the intended audience wasn’t obvious, he opens and closes the track by riffing on “My Old Kentucky Home,” acknowledging both our pride in the state and the sorrow of its most recent injustices. Childers recorded an accompanying video further explaining his intention with “Long Violent History,” and Flemons wrote an introduction to the album tracing Kentucky music’s connection to Black string, ragtime, and jazz bands from the south. It’s clear Childers isn’t taking this moment lightly, lending his full-throated support for his brothers and sisters who are calling out for their lives.
All of the proceeds from the album are going to Childers’ and Senora May’s Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund, which supports underserved communities in Appalachia. So stream away, but know that a purchase will have a major impact on our fellow Kentuckians.