Tyler Childers Lets Us Hear That ‘Angel Band,’ Announces New Album
Tyler Childers at MerleFest in 2019 (photo by Jim Gavenus)
After a few days of teasing via his mostly dormant Instagram account, Tyler Childers released a new song this morning, “Angel Band” — with two takes available on streaming services, “Jubilee Version” and “Hallelujah Version.”
As the titles might suggest, it’s a church-inflected modern-day hymn, peppered with phrases from gospel standards, with Childers’ plaintive voice making it hard not to believe.
The song heralds a new album from Childers, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?, revealed via images on his Instagram account and listed for release on Sept. 30. Amazon Music lists the album as having 24 songs and clocking in at 1 hour, 48 minutes. On that and other streaming services, many of the songs are listed multiple times, with Hallelujah, Jubilee, and Joyful Noise versions, and the pre-order site shows vinyl and CD products with three discs corresponding to those version titles. The song titles themselves likewise have overtly Christian themes: “Old Country Church,” “Way of the Triune God,” “Purgatory.”
Childers released a video for “Angel Band (Jubilee Version)” that reprises the drunk-in-the-woods character from his 2019 “All Your’n” video and features Childers and others building a barn in scenes juxtaposed against a paradise that doesn’t look all that different:
Amid more traditional Christian imagery comes a verse, late in the song, offering hope that paradise still has a place in the modern world:
There’s Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, Baptists of all kind
Catholic girls and Amish boys who’ve left their plows behind.
Up there in the choir singing side by side
Wondering why exactly they been fussing the whole time.
Also side-by-side on the song are a lush string arrangement, country guitar, and a full-blast church organ, making a sound both timeless and timely.
Childers’ previous album, Long Violent History, was released in 2020, just a few months after the height of protests for the Black Lives Matter movement, and came with a video statement in which he asked listeners — specifically “white, rural” ones — to examine their reactions to the protests and movement and to practice empathy. The album’s title song addressed such timely issues directly; the rest of the album was fiddle tunes.
That same year, Childers and his wife, Senora May, founded the Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund to support initiatives helping people in their native Kentucky and other parts of the region. Later this month, Childers will headline the Healing Appalachia festival in West Virginia, which is a fundraiser for the group’s efforts to combat opioid addiction.