Tyler Childers at The Fox Theater, by William Wayland
Tyler Childers (photo: William Wayland)

Words by William Wayland

Here’s something I didn’t realize until last Friday. Tyler Childers is a heartthrob. The guy who stands at the microphone like he just got off a backhoe makes his lovesick fans swoon.

And that makes sense. Even with its share of whooping and hollering and falling-down drunk into the arms of the Oakland Police Department, what I saw mostly at The Fox Theater was couples with their arms around each other singing the words to every song (and taking videos, of course, to prove that they were there).

Just as Bruce Springsteen can’t be separated from Asbury Park, New Jersey; Tyler Childers can’t be separated from Lawrence County, Kentucky. Each lyric is a love note to the people of this region, their lives, their hopes, and their misfortunes.

And with his ability to write so singularly about these people and places, each listener makes a connection to someone they know or somewhere they’ve been. Everyone in the audience knows that when he’s singing an honest-to-goodness love song, it’s going out to Sonora May, but imagine these are words they hear their own lover say.

From over here, it looks like Tyler Childers has caught that honky-tonk flame. He’s touring behind his new album, Country Squire, and sold out Red Rocks. Pretty soon they’ll have to stop putting him in that little Americana box.

I guess the price of Tyler Childers’ popularity is I couldn’t make out a single word of what little he had to say between songs. The enthusiastic audience was speaking over him and that’s too bad because it might worth hearing.

Some people pay good money for a concert ticket and don’t show up for the opening act. Those who got there late last weekend missed a performer I had been looking forward to seeing for what feels like a long time but has really only been since I started reading the reviews of her newest album, The Kindness of Strangers: Courtney Marie Andrews. Her music often deals with loneliness, empathy, and a longing for human connection and to me, the stage felt a little too big for her. But with her voice she was able to embrace the audience and make the theater feel a little more intimate.

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