David Childers is confounded by his band's inability to penetrate what he calls "Fortress Americana." But the burly Mount Holly roots rocker has a message for the kingmakers residing inside: Who the hell needs you?
Childers and his hard-rockin' band will release their latest -- David Childers & the Modern Don Juans Are Burning in Hell -- nationally on Feb. 27 (the record is already available at local independent retailers). If recent history repeats, Burning in Hell will earn plenty of critical accolades without the help of Americana radio. Jailhouse Religion, which came out last February, was hailed by roots rock linchpin No Depression and wound up on several Best Of year-end lists. Childers and Co. were feted by eminent rock critic Dave Marsh on his Sirius radio show, Kick Out the Jams, and wowed European festival crowds and Mountain Stage audiences alike.
Still, not much love from Fortress Americana.
"In that genre, your history means as much as your material, and there's a lot of greatness-by-association involved," Childers says, while conceding that his band probably rocks too hard anyway for Americana's typically sedate crowds. "I was pretty bummed about the way the last record was rejected by Americana radio, but then I asked myself, 'who listens to that shit anyway?'"
So Childers and band -- son Robert (drums), Mark Lynch (bass) and Randy Saxon (guitar) -- persevere and thrive modestly without much help from the Americana tastemakers. Compared to the hordes of alt-country wannabes, over-earnest singer/songwriters and Big Hat Nashvillians shamelessly invoking the ghosts of Hank Sr., Cash and Haggard, Childers and company simply churn out classic, take-no-prisoners Southern country rock.
Like Jailhouse Religion, Burning in Hell is a near-perfect blend of acoustic and electric influences reaching throughout the canon: Buddy Holly swing and Roy Orbison twang, Merle Haggard honky tonk and Johnny Cash shuffle, Louvin Brothers apocalypse ballads and Greenwich Village folk, Byrds jangle and Replacements riffs.
But the breadth of sonic touchstones would be a hollow feat if it wasn't for Childers' ability to make them his own. For that he assigns much of the credit to his band, as well as Lynch's production.
"Whatever anybody can come up with that works, that's what we're after," he says. "I don't even care if I had anything to do with writing it if I like playing it."
Still, it's Childers' vision -- at once profane and profound -- that the music highlights. Burning In Hell's songs are replete with frank, hard-scrabble narratives of struggle, strife and occasional redemption.
"Life is basically sad and horrible," Childers says. "It's our job to brighten things and hold up some mirrors here and there."
Childers' background informs many songs. One of them, "What Will Become of the Child," describes the generational slide he witnessed at the Gastonia courthouse where he did criminal defense cases for nearly two decades. Another, "Soldier Town," was inspired by his visits to Fort Benning in Georgia and Bush's cluster-fuck in Iraq.
"Soldiers will go wherever you tell 'em to go and give it their best," he says. "But it's tragic to me that those people have entrusted their lives to a pack of hyenas."
While the specifics make for interesting back stories, Childers' songs succeed because of their universality -- and also because they're played with passion and precision. So don't be surprised if, 30 years from now, another roots rock revival hails this band's over-looked work and castigates the fools that neglected it when they had the chance.
Local Shows of Note: Ex-Talk member CR Rollyson is fast becoming a fixture on the local scene: catch him Friday, Feb. 16th at the Milestone on a bill with The Sammies, Pacific Stereo and Deadly Fists of Kung Fu. Rollyson will be sharing the stage for the first time with a backing band, The Hotwire Kids (ex-High School Speeding) ... the all-female quartet The Near Misses play the Evening Muse on Saturday, Feb. 17 ... on the other end of the sonic spectrum that night, you can bang yer head along with local metal makers BlackAcidDisco and Black Ritual at Tremont Music Hall ... Americana artist Carey Sims celebrates his new one, Wheels, with a CD release party at the Evening Muse on Tuesday, Feb.20th ... Local classic rockers Blanco Diablo play Amos Southend (with Jackyl) on Friday, Feb. 23 ... Babyshaker headlines a six-act, two-stage extravaganza at the Milestone on Feb. 24. Also on the bill: Hot Rod Grease Lightning, The Emotron, 2013 Wolves, Stone Figs and Casio Casanova ... On the other side of town that night, gogoPilot tops the late show at the Evening Muse ...
If your band has any information regarding CD releases, touring news, or you just feel the need to talk, please forward your info to [email protected].