Artist: David Childers
Album: Run Skeleton Run
Release Date: 05.05.2017
Here’s another relatively unheralded singer-songwriter making a strong impact. David Childers reminds me of the Kris Kristofferson line, “He’s a walking contradiction.” Even his song titles have that flavor as in “Run Skeleton Run” and “Goodbye to Growing Old—he’s not a predictable sort. Childers is a former high school football player and could easily pass as another Southern good ol’ boy, yet, he’s a well-read poet and painter and avid listener of music from folk to opera to jazz. Better still, he was a lawyer who turned in his license to pursue his passion for art.
Folks in North Carolina, especially his neighbors, the Avett Brothers, are more familiar with Childers. Avetts bassist Bob Crawford co-executive-produced theCD with label head Dolph Ramseur. This is actually Childers’ sixth album, and it reunites him with producer Don Dixon (R.E.M., the Smithereens).
Childers has a talent for economical, poetic, often cinematic songs. “You look at a song like ‘Pancho and Lefty,’ it tells a story in four stanzas,” Childers says. “That’s the way I approach songwriting. You don’t have to say so damned much. ‘The train went down, O Lord O Lord.” That line is from “Belmont Ford,’ a mandolin-driven song about the Great Flood of 1916, based on a poem by a friend. Childers derived the lyrics to “Collar and Bell” (wherein his son plays drums) from those written by Shannon Mayes, an Ohio school principal. “Goodbye to Growing Old” was written with Theresa Halfacre. Childers says, “I’ve never been able to get any serious writers to co-write with me. Here are these folks, just regular people, and they got something to day, and they’re sending me stuff, and I’m going. Well, if they’re gonna send it to me, I’m gonna try to do something with it.”
These 12 songs cover quite a bit of territory: sailors, hermits, lovers, murderers, facing off against fate, or simple ordinary life. Throw in guilt, innocence, desperation, sorrow, gratitude and it’s difficult to find subjects he doesn’t touch on. Then there’s the music; an amalgam of rock, folk, rockabilly, Cajun and country. He gives the listener something to focus on in each song, none much like the other. The idea of “Promise to the Wind” where the wind caught the promise and took it away, is both simple and brilliant. I was struck by the funky rhythm in the title track before focusing on its strange idea. “Goodbye to Growing Old” seemed to me as completely appropriate to my place in life. Childers treats it with a mix of defiance and acceptance with lines like this, “Well, it’s mostly just a state of mind/And I ain’t about to say that it’s time/ To surrender to anything. Anything. Anything.”
Expect to hear from Childers in other mediums too. He’s considering a memoir and two books of poetry. This album really impressed me and makes me want to seek out its predecessor, 2014’s Serpents of Reformation. This is one on the best surprises so far in 2017.