Recently, David Childers played a knockout show at Jack of the Wood with his band the Serpents, proving once again that the 63-year-old lead singer, a regional favorite for decades, may have found his most supreme groove with his latest release, Serpents of Reformation. It’s a gospel record of sorts, but Childers is no preacher. A long-time lawyer who specializes in helping the poor and disenfranchised navigate government bureaucracy, the Piedmont native exudes a sense of righteousness in his tunes, and his throaty thirst for justice is palpable. But the journey is also personal. He’s not asking you to believe — just to hitch a ride if you’re able.
Also, the live show just plain rocks. While more dark and ruminative on disc, Childers in person is a stage-shaking force, helped by an ultratight group of musicians including his son Robert Childers on drums, Korey Dudley on bass, Dale Shoemaker on guitar, and Geoff White on fiddle and banjo.
“I think people are surprised when they come out and hear this band. People have told me they think it’s going to be some serious, kind of quiet singer-songwriter thing, and that’s not at all what it’s about when I go out with the Serpents,” Childers remarked to Bold Life music reporter Robin Tolleson in a feature story last December. “It’s about rock-and-roll and having a good time. If you catch the words, hell, that’s great, but it’s not so focused on the words as it is the beat.”
That’s not to say that Childers’ craft doesn’t carry weight. His song “The Prettiest Thing” was amped into a hit by the Avett Brothers, a fellow Piedmont band who blew up into international success the last decade. Meanwhile, the lawyer/troubadour continues to enjoy a multimedia cult following that also encompasses his visionary visual art — folk-art-esque paintings that sell well but seem to leave his mind as soon as a fresh muse grabs him.
“I have no idea what inspired them,” he told Tolleson. “I live in a state of inspiration.”
Don’t miss David Childers and the Serpents of Reformation at the excellent listening room The Purple Onion (16 Main St. in Saluda) on Saturday, May 14. 8pm. 828-749-1179 for more information.