It’s no shocker that one of the hottest young singer-songwriters in the country music, Tyler Childers, sounds great on stage with Sturgill Simpson. The Kentucky natives’ working relationship brought us Childers’ Simpson-produced album Purgatory in 2018. What’s a little kooky is how they progressed from Purgatory to Hillbilly Heaven for at least one summer afternoon. They got there by raising Hell onstage with fellow Kentucky boy and Nashville outcast Wheeler Walker Jr. at the 2018 Hinterland Music Festival in Saint Charles, Iowa.
Simpson and Ol’ Wheeler appeared as special guests during Childers’ Sat., Aug. 4 set. Childers and Walker traded vocals on the latter’s “Sit On My Face” while Simpson played along on guitar as sure-handedly as he did when he joined another Bluegrass State native, Chris Stapleton, on Saturday Night Live.
It’s three talents who’ve each made a mark on country and Americana by going against the grain. If you look at it that way, the setlist choice suited the Highwaymen-like happening better than a random Johnny Cash cover — although that, too, would’ve been awesome.
The footage that’s making the rounds keeps rolling after Walker leaves the stage. Simpson stays put for what’s teased as a set-closing cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” That was just a 15-second joke, for better or worse. Instead, we got Childers, his band and his famous guest guitarist ripping through The Charlie Daniels Band’s Southern rock classic “Trudy” with reckless abandon.
It’s an okay thing that the NSFW jam session with Wheeler will get the most attention, and hopefully it becomes a recurring way for the comedian to talk enough you-know-what about bro-country to fill an Appalachian outhouse. But please don’t sleep on the CDB cover. It better proves that Childers’ vocals go with Simpson’s riffs like biscuits and sausage gravy.