Written by Brett Gibbons
For fans of Cody Johnson, October 8 was like Christmas morning. The Texas-native– now Warner recording artist– dropped Human: The Double Album on us after months of buildup.
We’re huge Cody Johnson fans here at Tailgate Country, so I let the album simmer for a couple weeks and now I feel confident enough to review it.
Dynamic range, unbridled transparency, and a new direction for CoJo
While discussing the then-upcoming projected with Taste of Country Nights, Cody Johnson said that Human is, “one of the most personal things I’ve ever recorded. Because that’s me.” Johnson leads the album with the title track for good reason and sets the stage for what this record is: him.
It’s that kind of transparency and vulnerability that sets this album not only above other projects from the year, but above Johnson’s own previous work.
Take, for example tracks off A Different Day (his second full-length record). I love a good outlaw song, but Guilty As Can Be is a story taken from inmates Johnson met as his time as a prison guard. Hits like Dance Her Home and Me and My Kind are terrific songs, but they just don’t feel like Johnson.
Human …is one of the most personal things I’ve ever recorded. Because that’s me.Cody Johnson on Taste of Country Nights
Compare that work to songs like Til You Can’t and I Always Wanted To and you see the growth in Johnson as an artist.
Hell– compare tracks on this very record to each other and you’ll get a good feel for the range Johnson’s evolved with. You have classic honky tonkin’ songs like Honky Tonk Hardwood Floors and Cowboy Scale of 1 to 10 that are purely fun CoJo. Then you have I Don’t Know a Thing About Love that’s a soulful, borderline R&B song.
Despite being a fan, I have to be honest myself about this record: there are certainly aspects of it that didn’t resonate with me the way I would have hoped. But like with exhaustive projects like Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous and Eric Church’s Heart & Soul, there’s ups and downs.
I believe the strength of this record came in the tracks Johnson released along the way. Til You Can’t is a top-40 country song in the making (he recently released it to radio), Stronger might be my favorite song off the whole album, and Son of a Ramblin’ Man has been a staple cover at CoJo shows for years.
The back third or so of Human: The Double Album I thought didn’t carry the same strength as the top of this record. But what a top it is.
Human, Honky Tonk Hardwood Floors, Sad Songs and Waltzes, and Til You Can’t lays out the entire range of the entire album right off the bat. You get your vulnerable song (Human), your blow-the-damn-roof-off song (Hardwood Floors), your cover (Sad Songs), and your smash hit (Til You Can’t) all right there.
If you’re new to Cody Johnson, I’d still recommend going back to those older projects of A Different Day and Cowboy Like Me. However, there’s amazing new stuff in Human: The Double Album. While the aforementioned two projects (and even, to some degree, Gotta Be Me) comes from the boy, Human comes from the man.
So, mix in your Let’s Build a Fire with your next field party playlist. But for the majority of the rest of the tracks, strap your boots up and take a listen with your soul.
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