Even the familiar can become eerie when bathed in shadow. Tall Tales & Fables, the third release by Nashville’s Haunted Like Human, takes classic folk themes down a haunting, southern gothic path, thanks to its oft-ominous instrumentation and lyrical exploration of dark places.
While the honed musicianship may be the first thing you notice, the duo, comprised of Cody Clark (multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter) and Dale Chapman (lead singer, lyricist), keeps your attention thanks to the lyrical detail throughout the twelve-song track list. With topics ranging from mental health, good battling evil, challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces in finding acceptance, and leaving the past behind, the pair explore a lot of emotional ground. Its notable that the group takes on the challenge of parsing through so many timely issues yet keeps the album consistent and flowing.
Album opener, “September,” serves as a preview of the harmony-heavy focus of the record. Chapman and Clark’s timing are on point, making sure the paired voices build on each other and meld as a collective thought. However, it’s with the increased pep of the second track, “Ohio,” that the album takes off. Well-placed touches of fiddle, a jaunty beat, and judicious use of Clark’s harmonies spin the longing tale. It’s on the fourth track, “Run Devil Run,” that the real gothic tones of the album shine through as the classic battle between good and evil looks to a mysterious female force as the champion. This trio of songs sets the tone for the remainder of the record.
Other highlights include the return to a more banjo folk sound on “Bruised Feet;” the dark exploration of forbidden love on “Whistling Tree;” and the haunting “Ghost Towns.” Although the entire album relies on the duo’s woven vocal harmonies, the minimalist album closer, “Things Fall Apart,” does the best job of letting the vocals shine.
On Tall Tales & Fables, Haunted Like Human struck the perfect balance between recognizable folk music themes that draw you in and gothic diversions that keep your ears alert. Quality storytelling is matched with fine fiddle playing, nimble banjo strumming, refined guitar work, and smartly restrained percussion to craft an album that garners repeat listens—both for enjoyment and to capture the full tapestry of the work.
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Featured Image and other band photos by Caroline Voisine