Monday, September 21, 2020

Tyler Childers drops a surprise album meant to raise money for Appalachia and raise awareness about racial injustice

Screenshot of Childers' album website

Eastern Kentucky-born country singer and songwriter Tyler Childers released a surprise album on Friday meant to raise money for Appalachian philanthropic efforts and raise awareness about racial injustice to rural white listeners, Joseph Hudak reports for Rolling Stone.

Long Violent History is mostly instrumental fiddle music but includes a track with the same name of the album, in which Childers "sings about the Appalachian upbringing of a 'white boy from Hickman' and how he and his kin have been sometimes labeled 'belligerent' and 'ignorant.' But, he points out, they’ve never had to fear for their lives," Hudak reports. "Could you imagine just constantly worryin'/Kickin' and fightin', beggin' to breathe?" he sings.

"The album arrives with a six-minute video message from the Kentucky songwriter, in which he directly challenges his fans, including his 'white rural listeners,' to empathize with black victims of police brutality," Hudak writes. "It’s a stunning speech, with Childers touching on his six-month sobriety, the covid pandemic, and the South’s misguided allegiance to the Confederate flag. But the focus of his address is on police brutality."

In the speech, Childers encourages rural, white listeners to empathize with the Black Lives Matter movement with a thought exercise: He asks them to imagine how they would feel if they constantly saw news headlines such as "East Kentucky man shot seven times on a fishing trip" for a story about a white man rummaging through his tackle box, shot by a game warden who thought he was reaching for a knife, Hudak reports. "If we wouldn’t stand for it, why would we expect another group of Americans to stand for it?" Childers asks.

All net proceeds from the album benefit the Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund, which Childers and his wife established earlier this year to help fund philanthropic efforts in Appalachia. 

The new album isn't the first time Childers has waded into politics and philanthropy. The Martin County native began writing songs partly as a reaction to the negative portrayal of his home town an episode of ABC News' "20/20". And in 2018, after the Martin County Water District gained nationwide attention for failing to provide clean, reliable drinking water to residents, Childers donated—and helped distribute—500 cases of water to his home county.

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