‘Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?’: Off the Beaten Path Country Music
Acclaimed country music singer Tyler Childers’ latest record is a foray into experimentation rarely seen in the genre today. However, Childers’ 5th studio album “Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?” is unfortunately unable to follow through on its noble ambitions.
“Can I take my dogs to heaven?” is a very strange album, especially for a country artist. Childers delivers a record that is both a single and a triple album. There are only eight songs, but there are three different versions of each: a “Hallelujah” version, a “Jubilee” version and a “Joyful Noise” version. Thus, the first key problem of the album arises. It doesn’t provide much content but still feels incredibly bloated. Two of the eight tracks are purely instrumental on their original recordings, meaning we’re really only getting six full songs, which most Childers fans will have heard by now.
This is not to say that the concept envisioned by Childers is at all uninteresting. He begins the album with the “Hallelujah” versions which are simply the original recordings of each song. The “Jubilee” versions come next and are sonically very similar to the “Hallelujah” versions, but add more unorthodox instruments like various strings, horns and even electric guitar into the arrangements. These recordings add a bit of texture to each song but are ultimately useless. With a track listing of nearly an hour and 45 minutes, the “Jubilee” version should have either been left out of the album or presented as the original version of the songs.
The “Joyful Noise” versions, however, are entirely different from anything on the record and fit barely, if at all, into modern conceptions of country music. Essentially, these are the earlier versions of the songs sampled and chopped up into strange amalgams of sound. It’s a really interesting technique for a country artist, especially one as popular as Childers. It challenges conventional song structure in favor of a more fluid design. Despite this, these tracks are boring to say the least. Obviously, Childers knows how to write great songs, but the experiment he underwent on the “Joyful Noise” version was largely unsuccessful. It seems that he publishes his songs for the sake of contrarianism rather than passion or musical inspiration. These remixes sound uninspired and flat and don’t add much to the album.
While this record is by no means what I expected or wanted, there are still some positives, namely Childers’ songwriting. His lyrics focus on his religious upbringing and present serious conflicts between his current southern outlaw lifestyle and the Christian culture of his childhood. The instrumentation is equally fantastic. His raspy, passionate voice is one of my favorites in today’s music as a whole.
Since the opening track is a Hank Williams cover and two others are instrumental only, “Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?” de Childers does not feature much new material. When he sticks to his guns at the start of the three-part album, his songs are phenomenal as usual. However, the recording is dragged down by its extra execution time. An album with the original eight plus maybe two to four additional original songs would be one of this year’s best, but the end product we ended up with is disappointing.
Artist: Tyler Childer
Album: “Can I take my dogs to heaven?”
Label: Hickman Holler Records
Favorite tracks: “Can I take my dogs to heaven? – Hallelujah
Version” and “Way of the Triune God – Alleluia Version”
If you want: Colter Wall, Cody Jinks, Zach Bryan
Clovers: 2.5 out of 5