MP3 Halfway - Remember The River
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COUNTRY: Country Rock, ROCK: Americana
The release of Halfway's second LP, Remember The River, confirms the potential and delivers the promise. Arguably Australia's pre-eminent alt-country band, Halfway has grown into an ensemble outfit somewhere between the Jayhawks and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
There are a couple of things that grab you from the get-go with Halfway. The vocals stand out. The band is blessed with two great singers in Johnny Busby and Chris Dale - Johnny providing an easy, country catch-a-hook sound and Chris delivering lyrics in an edgier style - and they are supported by the rest of the crew who can deliver harmonies that are variously honey-sweet and capable of soaring like eagles.
Halfway grew out of the indie band scene in Brisbane after the provincial side of the group (Johnny, Chris and Elwin Hawtin) hit the Brisbane big smoke from the cattle capital of Rockhampton. They teamed up with some others -the impish Fitzpatrick brothers, Liam and Noel and Ben Johnson - before finally settling on a seven-strong presence with Liam Bray filling out the numbers. They managed to get under the skin of music lovers with their surprisingly confident and accomplished debut disc, Farewell to the Fainthearted, stamping them as a musical adventure not to be missed. They were soon recognised as one of the best live acts in Brisbane, crowding the stage at favourite venues like the Troubadour with their medicine show feel and their Basement Tapes sound.
Now about two years later they're back with their second offering, this time cooked up with Radio Birdman singer Rob Younger sharing production duties with Wayne Connolly (a veteran of studio sessions with the Vines and You Am I). The baker's dozen collection demonstrates maturity and acumen that was clearly insinuated in 2004. You hear it from the opening love song, River Roads, where a tale of yearning and insecurity mix in and out of a rolling backing that's carried along by the vocal harmonies and soulful lead guitar. And it weaves through the whole disc - the outlaw tune Dean And The Fitzroy, the love song Cherri Ann, the working song Factory Floor are just three from the first handful of tracks _ offering enough to surprise and engage.
That's the magic bit about Halfway that makes this a keeper. They get your attention in the nicest way possible - just like Gram and the boys did 38 years ago and Mark Olson and Gary Louris have done with their Minnesota cohorts in more recent times. Whether it's through a subtle guitar riff that slides off a punched snare beat wrapped in some pedal steel or mandolin or that slightly tripped vocal hook that pushes enough emotion into a story of ordinary lives into a metaphor for modern times, they can do what very few bands manage: they make the insignificant important and great sought out truth an obvious thing.
So much of Halfway's story-telling is Australian at heart - references to places like the Fitzroy River ground their yarns - but it's so universal in the themes and sensibility. Searching, yearning, loving and leaving, hard work and play - all patched into the quilt of musical celebration.
To single out a song from this collection, The Ballad Of Liza Browne is a gripping tale of lost love and sadness featuring the trademark country-soaked syncopation of Halfway but finishing with some thick guitar that wouldn't be out of place on a Sonic Youth LP. You can't ask for much more than that. With Halfway's Remember The River you get all of that and more. You get the feeling there's an early March, 2007 stage somewhere in Austin Texas waiting for Halfway to come along and capture the hearts and minds of South By South West conference goers. This is a band that's ready to give the rest of the world the good times the lucky folk of Brisbane have been having for a couple of years now.
âIt's not always the case but Remember The River builds on the promise Halfway showed with its debut release Farewell To The Fainthearted. It's not unusual for a country rock band to hail from a 'cattle capital'. Any 'cattle capital' worth its salt should have a band on every street corner. It just so happens that this particular 'capital' is Rockhampton, Queensland. Halfway proves that country rock is all about attitude and talent and not geography.
It is also a band that has clearly outgrown the narrow confines of Rockhampton and the hooky riffs of Remember The River will surely take it from the shores of Australia, this an album destined and deserving of a wider audience.
Remember The River also shows Halfway to be a true country rock band rather than a band that just happens to play country rock. In Johnny Busby and Chris Dale it is blessed with two singers who bring an unique and personal slant to alt. country, Wear Me Out for one is not the slavish following of a genre, it's quirky, edgy and original. Rather like The Jayhawks, to whom they are close bedfellows, Halfway is not in the middle of the country rock genre, fighting for space with the herd, Remember The River lives on the outskirts of town.
That could be in part down to the band's Australian roots keeping it apart from the mainstream but it's more likely due to the combined efforts of Busby and Dale taking the less slick path to the likes of River Roads. There are moments that would, in an AOR, radio-friendly environment, be airbrushed out, here the flaws and fissures are celebrated.
The connection between artist and audience is cemented by the intimacy of Dear Mother and Factory Floor. Halfway is drawing on collective experiences and it all adds to the album's sense of reality.
In common with bands for whom the alt. is more important than the country, Halfway don't sit comfortably in either rock or country, instead it bestrides both, using the best of each.â 4/5 - Maverick
âTalented songsmiths HALFWAY pretty much established themselves as Australiaâs premier âAmericanaâ-tinged band with their debut album âFarewell To The Faintheartedâ last year. It was a record that made (and continues to make) repeated journeys to the over-worked W&H stereo and now itsâ erstwhile follow-up, the sublime âRemember The Riverâ effortlessly cements their reputation as purveyors of quality-first Antipodean roots-rock.
Produced by the notable pairing of Rob Younger (New Christs/ Radio Birdman) and Wayne Connolly (The Vines, You Am I), âRememberâ¦â is a consistent, passionate set, clinically devoid of weak tracks and the bandâs democratic approach to songwriting and performance ensuring that the sum is always greater than the parts. Stand out tracks jostle for elbow room and the overall effect leaves you simply wanting to re-cue the critter to enjoy it all over again when closing track âEdge Of The Pierâ winds down.
But more of that a little further down the line. Letâs concentrate on how they got that far first. Opener âRiver Roadsâ is typically plangent, yearning REM-ish roots-rock, a sound full of passion and poignancy and lead vocals shared between Chris Dale and (unusually) bassist Ben Johnson. It rocks, but is leavened by mandolin and strings and shows just how impressive Halfway are becoming in all departments these days.
Itâs soon followed up by the rich and descriptive âDean & The Fitzroyâ, full of allusions to the bandâs native Queensland and propelled by Daleâs yearning vocals and Elwin Hawtinâs snappy drumming. Johnson and guitarist Johnny Busby push the chorus out further and Noel Fitzpatrickâs ghostly pedal steel seals up the melodic cracks.
From there on, Dale and Busby pretty much alternate on lead vocals. Daleâs voice is emotive and yearning (itâs difficult not to note tinges of both Ryan Adams and Jeff Tweedy) and just perfect for tracks like âDearest Motherâ with itsâ great, duelling organs and âBig Waveâ: an edgy and fatalistic affair, carried beautifully by Johnsonâs insistent bass motif and discreet slide guitar, while Busby is a little gentler and more approachable, but no less passionate on similar highlights like the perky, romantic âLeft For Luckâ and âCherri Annâ, where Halfway make like a heavier Burritos cryinâ a country-soul river, aided and abetted by a mournful, weeping fiddle.
Itâs not the only time the spectre of Gram is favourably raised either. To this end, check out the excellent, mandolin-led country-billy shuffle of âBillie Joe & The Bullymanâ which is discernibly âGilded Palaceâ-ish in feel, yet â crucially â never derivative: quite an achievement bearing in mind the number of country-rock pretenders who have since plundered the carcass. But then Halfway are getting pretty damn adept at twisting familiarity into songs which are anything but contemptuous. If you need further proof, just give yourself a few minutes with songs as unmissable as the Replacements-meets-Waterboys-meets-Jayhawks bar-room swagger of âChanceâ ; the sorrowful and epic âThe Ballad Of Liza Browneâ with itsâ burning blue Sonic Youth guitar coda and the lovely, crestfallen closer âEdge Of The Pierâ, which concludes in fine, defiant style with Dale singing âI was born to resist/ Iâll do more than get pissed/ I wanna live before I die.â A philosophy weâd all love to take on board in an ideal world.
All of which adds up to a special, resonant sophomore album by a band rapidly becoming synonymous with country-tinged quality. âRemember The Riverâ is a late contender for the upper echelons of those âBest of 2006â lists and suggests that the allegedly âdifficultâ third album may well be no hurdle at all for the eminently talented Halfway.â 9/10 - Whisperin and Hollerin
âA perfectly finger-tappable album from Australia based Halfway sees them build on their previous album 'Farewell to the Fainthearted' with 13 lilting songs. There's a consistent depth to the tracks with the layered guitar sounds and dual vocals from Johnny Busby and Chris Dale.
I'm not sure at what point country bands become 'alt-country' bands and for me this is the only weakness about this album. Personally I like something a little edgier or more daring cattle-prodded into my alt-country and on this basis 'Remember the River' falls a little short. But if 50 minutes of gentle MOR country music is your thing then this will be right up your street.â Tasty Fanzine
âI may be tad biased, but being a Halfway fan from way back I'm extremely glad to report that Halfway have once again delivered an absolutely brilliant and heart-warming album with Remember The River. It would be all too easy to compare these guys to Gram Parsons, but there is something brilliantly original and Australian about their sound that makes these comparisons somewhat unfair. The vocals of Chris Dale and John Busby are wonderfully honest as they lament and climb their way through a collection of tracks that piece together perfectly as an album.
Dearest Mother and Favour For A Friend are outstanding tracks; however it is the extraordinarily lifting Factory Floor that really steals the album for me. The songwriting on display here really does show that Halfway are among Australia.s best in the altcountry craft, and definitely deserve much bigger things. Let's hope the world takes notice.â Rave Magazine
âMid 2005 , I told you about this Australian Alt.Country band, debuting with a hell of an album. Halfway is back with a second instalment; Remember The River!
Remember The River, confirms what we had known from the very start, Halfway does have a lot of potential and delivers the promise. The band has grown and matured over the years and that's something that suits them well. Take for instance the "Ballad of Liza Brown", this is a truly great country song about lost love & sadness. Including in thick guitar ending that makes you think of Sonic Youth. That's what halfway is, never bound by one genre or any regulations when it comes to exploring their musical boundaries. Or what to think of "Billie Joe & The Bullyman", a much more traditional tune including Mandolin, Dobro and, Fiddle. "Chance" is another beauty on the album. A tune that reminds me of a time when Alt.country didn't exist and simple was called Electric Country or progressive Country. Think Moby Grabe, and you'll know what I mean. "Big Wave" about the ending of a relationship is another untypical ballad on the album. Influences are hard to point out here, but there are clearly more rock influences in this tune then others. A very nice addition to the rest of the songs!
When listening to Halfway, fond memories of Graham Parsons, The Jayhawks or even the Flying Burrito Brothers come back. This is exactly where to situate Halfway right now. Gifted with 2 blessed vocalists and a handful of good musicians, this 7-piece ensemble fills venues in Brisbane, Australia with ease and is certainly ready to cross the ocean to fill stages over there.
While their heart might be 100 Australian when referencing places, the themes and issues in the lyrics are universal. Combine all this and you'll know "Remember The River" is a keeper. Be sure to order or pick it up from November the 20th on.â 4/5 - Billybop Website Belgium.
âFollowing swiftly on from their debut âFarewell To The Faintheartedâ, Brisbaneâs seven-strong country rockers Halfway donât disappoint with this new 13 song collection.
From the opening blast of âRiver Roadsâ, itâs immediately obvious the band have lost none of their talent for writing extremely strong songs rooted firmly in the alt-country genre.
I had the pleasure of reviewing the bandâs last album and have to say that all that was said then (and not only by me) still stands when reviewing this latest album. The sounds of Ryan Adams, Wilco, the Triffids and Drive By Truckers can still be heard in these high lonesome songs. The playing is still superb and the production by Wayne Connelly, who produced the last album with the band, and Rob Younger (Radio Birdman) is outstanding.
Much like the Drive By Truckers some of the appeal of Halfway lies in the fact that they have not just one good singer. Halfway go one better than that band however; they have three great singers. In John Busby and Chris Dale, who also handle guitars and a lot of the song writing duties, the band have two of the most impressive vocalists to grace any alt-country album. But on the opening song the lead vocals are taken by Dale and bassist Ben Johnson. And their voices are simply perfect together and the way they take a line each is pure genius. Whoever thought of that deserves more than a pat on the back. Actually starting the album with such a strong song is both good (the hope that more of the same is to comeâ¦and it does) and bad (itâs hard not to keep hitting the replay button to hear the song over and over again). Itâs a wonder to hear the duo sing âby my sideâ at the close of the song> Such a simple line sung with such conviction and just so catchy.
The album is simply superb all the way through, and each time I listen to it a different song emerges as my current favourite. At the time of writing itâs the fourth track on the album, âFactory Floorâ, that I canât get past. With banjo and superb slide guitar from the Fitzpatrick brothers and just a few vocal lines from Tracey Ellis it really is a highlight. But next time it just might be the simple love song which is âCherri Annâ. Awash with fiddle, that weeping slide guitar again and mandolin and particularly effecting vocals from Busby, itâs one of the most heartbreaking songs on the album.
But even when the band takes things at a faster pace as in âBillie Jo and the Bullymanâ, it still works. To these ears there is little that is better than the band slowing it down as on âFavour For A Friendâ or âThe Ballad Of Liza Browneâ but when they want to they can rock out and still hold their own. So they chose to rock out with mandolins, fiddle, dobro and banjo rather than blazing guitars but thereâs something in the way this band tackle these songs, you can feel that they live these songs; they are part of the band, and that is something that is missing a lot these days. Halfway sound like the real deal, they are not going through the motions. These are real songs by real musicians, and that is all too rare.
Those who discovered Halfway with âFarewell To The Faintheartedâ will find plenty more of the same to love here. For those who have yet to discover the new uncrowned kings of alt-country, start here and find out what you have been missing. - Pennyblack UK website
âPerhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to Remember The River is that while its Americana/alt country credentials stand comparison with Uncle Tupelo, The Jayhawks et al it reaches even further back. Halfway, Australiaâs premier alt country outfit, have, in their follow up to the marvellous Farewell To The Fainthearted - a hard act to follow - rekindled memories of Fables/Reckoning/Green REM. The band shows the same freedom of spirit, subtle shades and infinite possibilities that Athensâ finest did in their young artistic heyday. To categorise Remember The River is to miss the point, the album doesnât cross genres it ignores them. While Remember The River certainly owes allegiance to alt country, with its hooky melodies and catchy riffs, itâs not defined by it. The superbly intelligent lyrics delivered by co-vocalists Johnny Busby and Chris Dale take the bandâs music into college rock, as much as it does country, alt or otherwise. Itâs rock played without fear, River Roads and Dearest Mother have a gently untamed quality, youâre never quite sure where the songs are going and never convinced that the band know either. And itâs that spark that fires the whole album, Factory Floor is a simple tale, honestly told and the better for it. A beautifully natural almost self conscious song, spins gold out of the straw of a seeingly mundane subject. But the integrity and respect it is afforded shows that Halfway is still a band in touch with reality. Itâs also a band thatâs comfortable with feelings, Cherri Ann is a tender and touching moment without being sickly sweet. Because Halfway have not yet been seduced entirely by Americana, it has brought a healthy dose of wild, romantic folk to bear on Remember The River, The Ballad of Lizzie Browne is a dark and brooding take on universal and timeless themes. As they did with their debut album, Halfway have fired the imagination as much as pleased the ear. Remember The River is an album to dip back in to time and time again. Each visit will reveal something new and thereâs not many you can say that about.â - NetRhythms
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