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Tyler Childers

Jimmy's, Northern Quarter, Manchester
Thursday 1 February 2018

It was Independent Venue Week, a celebration of smaller venues at a time when many are under threat from city centre developers looking to build anything but places for live entertainment. I was headed over to the Northern Quarter of Manchester which is lucky to have a thriving set of music venues. My destination, Jimmy's, was sold out for a show with Tyler Childers which had already been moved from The Castle Hotel after selling out there. Testament to the fact that Childers is on the up.

Opening for the evening were The Local Honeys hailing from east Kentucky as does the headliner for the evening. In a mix of banjo, acoustic guitar and fiddle, Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs delivered a set rooted in older tunes and old timey music. They're well read musicians as their status as the first women to receive Bachelor of Arts degrees in Traditional 'Hillbilly' Music would suggest. Their set featured English folk song too with Hares on The Mountain, a song they learnt from Lankum (formerly Lynched) when their travels took them to Ireland. Having said that they juxtaposed tradition alongside the Linda Jean composition about strip mining, Cigarette Trees, which won a bluegrass songwriting contest for her at Merlefest. Closing with Freight Train Blues, they highlighted a rich mixture which went down well with the audience and bodes well for their future.

As the room filled up for Tyler Childers' arrival, the limitations of a basement location with its pillars and crooked shape became apparent. Audience members juggled position and I found myself stood on a seat to catch sight of a seated Tyler Chambers clutching his acoustic guitar readied for a solo set. He immediately grabbed the attention of the audience as he announced a set full of his own songs and those of others, some partly finished, some just about remembered as he burst into Rock, Salt and Nails as written by Utah Phillips and popularised by many including Steve Young. It was immediately apparent that his voice is one that, on full throttle, spits like he's fire eating and is flavoured like a matured whisky when he goes into gentler mode.

Nose On The Grindstone and a new song, Snipe Hunt, showed how he draws from his personal experiences of Kentucky even if his accent needed some translation for audience members unfamiliar with snipe. The set was, as promised, scattered with the less familiar and totally unfamiliar for the audience (22nd Winter, I Got Stoned and I Missed It, Lost Address and Bottles and Bibles) though those personal connections never get lost in his music or delivery. Purgatory, the title track of his latest album, made its way into the set midway through along with several other tracks from this fine recording, It worked to draw the audience even further in ready for the finale. By the time White House Road arrived (surely, via Steve Earle's Copperhead Road), the audience was fully on board with his bluesy country before the set was closed with the deeply personal Lady May. There was no encore but that was more to do with the geography of the venue with its dressing room only accessible through the audience rather than any indication that its attentive members had not responded to what is clearly a rising talent. Next time, expect Tyler Childers to be in a still bigger venue.

Steve Henderson
Northern Sky