David Childers

Jailhouse Religion

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"What am I still doing here? What the hell is going on?" David Childers howls with all the fire and brimstone of a street-corner preacher in his opening song, "No Pool Hall." Throughout the rest of his album, Childers confronts a number of hells, from alcoholism to poverty to the Devil himself. He expresses his struggles and indignations with the world with a truly bracing set of music. On revved-up numbers like "Peanut," "Strayaway Child," and the title track, Childers and his backing band, the Modern Don Juans, slug out blasts of raging country-rock that suggest Steve Earle on a punk bender. The North Carolina-based roots rocker even ventures into heavy metal territory on the apocalyptic "Danse Macabre." His gruff, world-wise vocals, which recall Earle or a rougher-edged Bob Seger, project a ferocity that sounds like both a condemnation and a catharsis. Childers slows the pace down occasionally to showcase his country side. The Tex-Mex-flavored "Roadside Parable" would be a perfect match for Joe Ely, while the banjo-led "Chains of Sadness" is a fine front-porch outing. On a couple of tunes, he tackles political history in his shot-from-the-hip style. "The General Belgrano," in title and song, refers to the controversial sinking of an Argentine military ship by the British during the Falkland War. The bio-song "George Wallace" presents a fuller picture of the late, infamous Alabama governor than the Drive-By Truckers' similar tune, "Wallace." That Childers' songs often concern the question of injustice should not be surprising considering that he is also a lawyer. One injustice that this album does not address, however, is this dirt-tough Southern troubadour's lack of recognition after years of music making. Perhaps with the powerful Jailhouse Religion, he will gather enough converts to bring him some well-deserved attention.

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