Tyler Childers ‘Rustin in the Rain’ Album Review
UPDATED: October 12, 2023
UPDATED: October 12, 2023

Album Release Date: Sept. 8, 2023

Produced By: Hickman Holler Records/RCA Records

Tyler Childers Pursues Country Gold with ‘Rustin’ in the Rain’

Tyler Childers may not appreciate the genre-defining term “Americana,” but there’s no denying his pivotal role in promoting its reputation. Alongside artists like Sturgill Simpson and more recently Zach Bryan, Childers has played a significant part in propelling the genre into a more “mainstream” spotlight. It’s safe to say that Childers, now a household name, has taken it upon himself to define what he believes “Country” music truly is. That’s precisely the case for his new album, Rustin’ in the Rain.

Rustin’ in the Rain is a concise 28-minute, 7-track album. One could view this record as a love letter to country music, possibly to a bygone era, or perhaps as a vision of what Childers envisions the genre could or should become. Initially, I considered it a concept album, but that assessment wouldn’t be fair, especially if this is the kind of music Childers aspires to create. Over the past decade, he has evolved, grown, and experimented with his art, faith, and political beliefs, making it clear that he won’t shy away from addressing topics he deems just.

The entire album is written and produced by Childers, in collaboration with his backing band, The Foodstamps. There are two exceptions: covers of Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through the Night and S.G. Goodman’s Space and Time. Childers’ previous “rootsy” instrumentations, at times bordering on bluegrass, have all been replaced by honky-tonk pianos, pedal steel guitars, and that classic country Telecaster. One thing is undeniable: Childers has a keen ear country music.

The title track, Rustin’ in the Rain, opens the album with hard-driving, ’90s country nostalgia. Childers’ trademark rambling cadence sets in, vividly painting images of farm equipment slowly rusting away. The high-energy track serves as something of a misdirection, as the remainder of the album takes on a more subdued tone and pace. Phone Calls and Emails, along with Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through the Night, offer straightforward, contemporary interpretations of classic country ballads. Luke 2:8-10 ventures into waltz territory with its 3/4 timing and profound biblical references (reminiscent of his 2022 gospel album, Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?). Percheron Mules stands out as one of the album’s stronger tracks, cleverly and uniquely composed. It reintroduces the mandolin, infuses hints of zydeco music, and features The Travelin’ McCourys providing old-time call-and-response harmonies. The album concludes with a fitting and compelling cover of S.G. Goodman’s Space and Time. 

I deliberately skipped around in the track listing to discuss the standout track, In Your Love. In my opinion, this song distinguishes itself from the rest of the album in almost every aspect, including tone and instrumentation. It’s deliberately modern and deviates from the overall album concept. The song is a beautifully crafted narrative illustrating the trials and tribulations of life, the toll it can take on a relationship, and what love can conquer. You can feel the depth of emotion that Childers poured into the lyrics, which complement his naturally raw vocals perfectly. The song is expertly arranged, establishing its mood with a gentle grand piano in the first verse, allowing the band to dynamically join in during the chorus and emphasize the urgency of his message. In Your Love is a collaborative writing effort between Childers and Silas House, and it is intended, at least according to the accompanying music video, to pay tribute to Childers’ beloved cousin and his struggles as a gay man in Appalachia. Regardless of its personal significance, it stands as one of Childers’ finest songs to date and will undoubtedly become a wedding classic. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, Rustin’ in the Rain adds another strong entry to Childers’ discography. If, like me, you yearn for the roots-driven days of Purgatory, this album may not be your cup of tea, and probably isn’t for you…Tyler Childers set out to create a country album, and by those standards, he unquestionably succeeded.

Favorite Track: In Your Love

RootsnRevelry Grade:                           

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