Review: Haunted Like Human’s Tall Tales and Fables is a Fine Album

A painted orange fox sat in a pose gazing into the eyes of the viewer for the HLH album art

Haunted Like Human are a Nashville based duo comprising Dale Chapman (lead vocals and lyrics) and Cody Clark (singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist). Formed after a chance coffee shop meeting in 2017, ‘Tall Tales and Fables’  is their third release, following on from their first album ‘Ghost Stories’, and EP follow up ‘Folklore’. The often dreamy arrangements lean towards the folkier end of Americana, with Chapman’s characterful vocals at the fore, supported by harmonies or duet parts from Clark. Echoes of her namesake Tracy Chapman can be heard in Chapman’s vocal tone, and together the duo are in Civil Wars territory, with fine harmonies.

Production by Mitch Dane allows the duo’s vocals to shine, no more so than on album closer ‘Things Fall Apart’, which gently builds from both voices in harmony, with guitar, as bass, percussion and a subtle drone are added, before ending with an a cappella outro.

Lyrics and phrasing maintain a contemporary edge in parallel with those folk roots, with subtle augmentation of instrumentation, as on ‘Stay’, where strings and keys are used to fine effect, as Chapman sings Darling you don’t hold me close the way you used to do/And I wonder what you’re thinking when I’m reaching out for you/You’re trying to be patient, yea you’re trying to be kind/But I know that you’re still running from the demons in my mind/But I promise this thing in my head/It ain’t got the best of me yet/Somewhere between all the wine and the chemicals/That are out of whack in my mind/Somewhere between all the whiskey and the medicine/That I’m drowning in to stay alive/I am often unkempt and unreasonable/But I swear to God that this is me trying/I‘m begging you stay, I’m begging you stay“.

Throughout the album lyrics repay careful listening, with topics often leaning to the darker side, as on ‘After Life’ , the double time acoustic guitar contrasting with the warning tale of the dangers of digging too deep– “People often only write the nicest things on headstones/turn all the dirty secrets and the bad blood back to dust”.

On album opener ‘September’ Chapman’s vocals speak of vulnerability, and coping with change, in it’s memorable chorus “Was it something about September/I don’t know/cos everything about me is changing/I’m trying to let go/was it a trick of the light or a change in the weather/maybe it’s something about September”, with it’s repeated fiddle motif.

A contrasting note is struck on ‘Run Devil Run’, with hints of Southern Gothic meeting a traditional folk theme, a dark tale of a female avenger, in times where there’s no God to save souls in danger, the track driven by the accompanying fiddle, and insistent shuffle percussion, while on ‘Soothsayer’ the dramatic chorus arrangement takes an unsettling tone, Chapman singing Oh you know there’s a flickering darkness/And it sings out like sirens to you/Yea it’s sickly sweet and elegantly violent/But these debts that you take/They will someday come due“.

A fine album who’s charms grow on repeated listening.

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