Halfway’s second LP, Remember The River was released in September 2006 and confirms the potential and delivers the promise of their first “Farewell to the Fainthearted”. 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.
Remember The River was 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 with Farewell to the Fainthearted. 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.
Halfway have two new releases: “Any Old Love” & “An Outlpost of Promise” Find out more here halfway.com.au/