Everynight Charley

Tyler Childers at Madison Square Garden / May 29, 2024

The new wave of country music is being birthed from the Kentucky heartland. While historically Kentucky has farmed country music pioneers from Bill Monroe to the Everly Brothers, a new charge is becoming as pivotal to country music as Texas outlaw music was in the latter 20th century. Tyler Childers has joined the latest ranks of country singers and songwriters from Kentucky like Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson whose innovative mix of neo-traditional country, bluegrass, and folk has garnered enough popularity to headline major venues in northern urban centers like New York City. Only last summer Childers headlined two nights at Radio City Music Hall; this spring, his Mule Pull ’24 Tour headlined two nights at Madison Square Garden.

Childers’ performance was to be down-home natural and casual, and so the arena stage set was designed to reflect that motif. After an opening set by Sylvan Esso, Childers’ stage crew created a ramshackle living room cluttered with an antique television set, sofas, end tables with lamps, and lots and lots of musical instruments. The countdown clock to the beginning of Childers’ performance was an animated mule pull circling the stage screens from the perimeter to the center. As the start of the show drew closer, the mule pull also drew closer to the center. As the house lights dimmed, the eight-piece band assumed positions amid the plentiful furniture, where the musicians found their pedal steel, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, guitars, keyboards, synthesizer, acoustic and electric bass, and drums.

As Childers sang the opening song, “Way of the Triune God,” his spiritual faith set the tone. He poured his soul in the song. His full-throated vocal delivery was so passionate that the veins and muscles in his neck protruded like branches in a bush. He maintained that intensity for a full two hours.

Photo by Everynight Charley

Unlike the countless country music artists who put distance between themselves and their lyrics, Childers exposed his vulnerability in his lyrics. He intermittently pulled on heartstrings as his storytelling revealed his emotional challenges and struggles. Sorrow, joy, and heartbreak were common threads throughout his repertoire. At times, the grief-laden timbre and vibrato of Childers’ vocals hinted that the happier songs harbored a subtle veil of longing or sadness.

Several songs were expanded as Childers stepped back from the microphone and let his band, the Food Stamps, jam on their instruments. Some of these lush interludes were puzzling, particularly the extended synthesizer break, which was indicative that an adventurous Childers aims to break through conventional arrangements. Midway through the performance, the musicians disappeared as Childers played a solo acoustic mini-set, at the end of which he was joined on stage for two songs by Kermit the Frog. Later in the set, Childers covered Hank Williams’ “Old Country Church,” found his fiddle and extended the song, pairing with one of his musicians for twin sawing.

The set featured three songs from his newest album, 2023’s Rustin’ in the Rain, and more than a dozen songs from the six earlier albums that placed him on the country music charts. The two-hour set gave the audience plenty of opportunities to sing along to fan-favorite hits. For the urban-based country-music fan, Childers performance was like a breath of fresh Kentucky mountain air.

Photo by Everynight Charley


  1. Way of the Triune God
  2. Tulsa Turnaround (Kenny Rogers & The First Edition cover)
  3. Percheron Mules
  4. I Swear (to God)
  5. Bus Route
  6. Rustin’ in the Rain
  7. All Your’n
  8. Purgatory
  9. Cluck Ol Hen (with “Friends In Low Places” snippet)
  10. In Your Love
  11. Going Home
  12. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain (Elton Britt and the Skytoppers cover) (solo acoustic)
  13. Follow You to Virgie (solo acoustic)
  14. Lady May (acoustic, with Kermit the Frog)
  15. Movin’ Right Along (The Muppets cover) (with Kermit the Frog)
  16. Angel Band
  17. The Old Country Church (Hank Williams cover)
  18. Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?
  19. Whitehouse Road
  20. Honky Tonk Flame
  21. House Fire
  22. Universal Sound
  23. Heart You’ve Been Tendin’
Photo by Everynight Charley