By: Isla Patrick
Singer-songwriter Tyler Childers’ three-part experimental country album, “Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?” dropped on Sept. 30. While the album is full of Christian themes, Childers twists the traditional sound of gospel into a criticism of his negative experiences with religion. He claims that Hounds is a “spiritual record” rather than a Christian one and maintains that “it doesn’t matter race, creed, religion, and all of that like.” Childers’ fifth studio album is a unique and deep-cutting exploration of rural Appalachian culture and the pitfalls of growing up in an oppressive environment.
The Kentucky-native country singer recorded each of his eight tracks in three different ways: first, he recorded them under the title Hallelujah Version, then Jubilee Version, and finally, Joyful Noise Version to create 24 total tracks. The Hallelujah tracks are the clean, stripped-back studio recordings of Childers and his band, while the Jubilee tracks are more heavily produced and feature a sound comparable to the singer’s previous works. The Joyful Noise tracks allowed Childers the most creative freedom — these final eight tracks feature electronic instrumentals that stretch the boundaries of country.
The unconventional gospel-turned-redneck album reflects Childers’ experience with the Southern Baptist church. He said in a press release, “I was scared to death to go to hell… trying to find the truth, and the beauty… and expelling all that nonsense has been something I’ve spent a lot of time on.” Childers’ rejection of the political rhetoric and misinterpretation surrounding his religion shines through in track 6, Angel Band, which features the lyric “[Jesus] ain’t a blue-eyed man,” criticizing the whitewashing of Christianity.
In track eight, Heart You’ve Been Tendin’, Childers strays even further from the Southern Baptist ideals of purity. He found inspiration for the song in his experiences with recreational drugs. However, track five, Way of the Triune God, retraces his journey with sobriety which he started around the time he released his previous album, “Long Violent History,” in 2020.
“Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?” is a must-listen for anybody needing a bit of exorcism or just an unusual musical experience. Childers may not be particularly new to the country music scene, but he’s still making waves with every new release. Be sure to check out his new album (and his old ones, too) for a mega dose of Kentucky realness.
(Sources: Apple Music, The Rolling Stone, Tyler Childers)