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Tyler Childers heads out after Hope in Hills

October 13, 2018

Cue up “On the Road Again” — a song written by Willie Nelson on an air sickness bag — as Tyler Childers and his locally based band The Food Stamps just kicked off their 41-date Sludge River Roadshow that rolls all over these United States and into Canada through the [year’s end.

The tour is already special out of the gate as all but a few of the dates have been sold out. The sold out are dates at Fillmore in San Fran, two nights at the Ogden Theatre in Denver and three nights at Nashville’s Exit-In.

The Roadshow kicked off Wednesday at the Brooklyn Bowl in NYC with long-time bubs and Huntington’s own razor-sharp indie pop rockers Ona. As they are out for a dozen East Coast and Midwest dates including a hop over into Toronto.

Interestingly, this isn t the first Ona and Tyler pairing in NYC. Childers played for the first time in New York City in August of 2016 as both were invited as special guests of Huntington native Michael Cerveris for his “Take Me Home — A Benefit Concert for West Virginia.”

For this run, Childers has added ace sound engineer Brian Hensley (Earth Tone Audio) who ran sound this past summer at Pullman Square, which resulted in the fresh-released four-song live EP from The Dividends.

Ian Thornton, Childers* manager, said they’re stoked to have Hensley out with the band to get consistent sound in every town.

For Childers* fans jonesing for some tunes, and without a bus ticket to Montana, dial up WV PBS at 11 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 p.m. Sunday, as Childers is a special guest of songwriting legend John Prine for his “Austin City Limits” taping.

Prine, who was announced as being on the ballot for the

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this week, invited Childers to join him on “Please Don’t Bury Me,” and “Paradise,” and had Childers trot out “Lady May,” his beautiful acoustic ode to his wife and fellow top-notch singer/songwriter, Senora May.

Go online at https://video.wvpublic.org/show/austin-city-limits/to find out more about Austin City Limits.

In more Prine time news, just announced Thursday is that for the first time in 25 years, Prine will be headed to Australia and New Zealand to tour in February and March 2019 and has invited Tyler Childers to join him.

Some Prine mountain state time

Prine and Childers are on the same page when it comes to having a big heart for those battling addiction.

Prine just released the video to his poignant song, “Summer’s End.” The video is shot in Richwood and Charleston and is directed by Kerrin Sheldon and Elaine McMillion Sheldon, known for the Emmy Award-winning documentaries “Heroin( e)” and the new equally powerful and alsoWV-shot film “Recovery Boys.”

Prine dedicated the video to Nashville Mayor Megan Berry’s son Max, a good friend who died last year due to complications with drugs including opioids. Prine performed at his memorial.

When Childers and his Huntington-based management team, Thornton’s Whizzbang BAM (Booking and Management) organized the first Healing Appalachia: A Concert to Fight Addiction in Appalachia last Saturday, Prine took to social media promoting the concert. He also gave permission for the video to be shown and sent a personal donation to Hope in the Hills to combat the opioid crisis.

The concert, which took place Saturday, Oct. 6 at the State Fair of West Virginia fairgrounds. It drew about 2,000 people (1,766 paid) coming out to see Tyler Childers, Kelsey Waldon, Justin Wells, The Wild Rumpus and The Half Bad Bluegrass Band.

Lewisburg, West Virginia based music promoter Charlie Hatcher, who is part of the Whizzbang BAM team, and who came up with the idea for Healing Appalachia, said when they played the Sheldon’s new video for “Summer’s End” that there was not a dry eye.

Feeling the spirit of the people

Hatcher, who emceed for the Healing Appalachia concert, said part of the power of the day was having about 300 to 400 folks from around Appalachia in recovery at the show. They shared their testimonies of the power of addiction and the hope of recovery from the stage.

“It was like going to church,” Hatcher said Wednesday by phone. “The spirit was in the air and it moved everybody. I didn’t have a clue. I always knew it was bad but I didn’t know the walk of how these people walked. When people joke about the struggle being real, man it is real, and when we showed the John Prine video there was about 2,000 people all crying.”

Hatcher, who at age 41 said he has been to more funerals than weddings, had three friends in active recovery who spoke during the day. He said the idea for using the power of music to impact change came to him after one more friend passed away.

“A point I made to the board was that if we are waiting for the government to come and save us, we’re sadly mistaken,” Hatcher said. “If we’re not prepared as a community to not love one another and to not throw stones at one another, then we are not getting out of this. We can’t rely on the politicians, they have all taken money from the pharmaceutical industry. I am not waiting. I am done. When one of my friends died, I sat on the river bank and I was just pissed at the world. I told my buddy Jay I am going to use all of my tools to be the change I want to see.”

Hatcher said that fire and passion for change was felt from the beginning as every sponsor he asked came on board, and that the State Fair of West Virginia immediately jumped on board to host the event.

A quilt of togetherness: Healing Appalachia

From luminaries to volunteer helpfrom recovery groups from around the region, Hatcher said a community quilt of togetherness could be felt at the Healing Appalachia concert.

Childers gave a speech to the crowd, then posted a longer speech on his social media uniting folks over lost loved ones and friends and inspiring hope of a better Appalachian tomorrow.

“Thank you to everyone who came out to the fairgrounds last night for Healing Appalachia. It was a pretty emotional night, thinking about how we could have filled that field 100 times over with tombstones of all the family, friends, and potential beauty our small towns have lost to opioid addiction,” Childers wrote.

“I’ve heard the whole “drug addiction isn’t a disease ...” argument over and over. I’ve heard ya. I also think if that’s the side of the train you sit on, you’re lacking any empathy whatsoever. But you might be right. It’s not a disease. It’s a dark lonely hole any of us could so very easily find ourselves in, attempting to fill the void brought on by depression and a whole slew of other mental illnesses. It’s a cancer on our communities. Most of us are no more than one degree of separation from its impact. It’s our big ugly monster to deal with. Together. We didn’t get here as a region overnight, and we won’t be out of it overnight neither.”

He continued, “If you have a person in your life struggling with addiction, ya ought to call them up today and let them know they aren’t unloved. And if you’re going through it your own self... You ain’t no accident, and you’re a fine soul deserving of love and all the good things. You’re worth it bro.”

Hatcher said every time his friends took to the stage to talk about their struggles he teared up.

“The biggest thing that anyone took away was that we are not going to get out of this mess without treating everybody with dignity, respect and love. I asked everybody to turn to the person on their right in the crowd and give them a hug, and they did. It was very powerful.”

While the concert was a great start, Hatcher said they are laying the groundwork for even bigger concerts that Thornton described in the spirit and style of Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid.

Their hopes are to produce events with the intentions of raising money to benefit projects and programs aimed to eradicate addiction in the greater Appalachian region. In addition to that annual effort, Hope in the Hills will also be making donations to Recovery Point ofWVand The Healing Place, a Louisville-based non-profit that operates in Kentucky.

To learn more about Healing Appalachia, please visit www.healingappalachia.org.

Dave Lavender writes about music for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at lavender@herald-dispatch.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter @DaveLavenderHD.

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