FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: BIG TAKEOVER (USA)
March 06, 2006
This roots rock/country pop seven-piece from Brisbane (birthplace of Saints, Go-Betweens etc.) come a country mile away from anything new, but what matters most is that they’re both skilful and heartfelt. If 1984 R.E.M. had decided to do an entire country rock album instead of one song (“Don’t Go Back to Rockville”), Farewell would have been that LP. I.E., they’re rockers at heart, but their crying harmonica (a great feature), pedal steel, banjo, accordion, dobro, mandolin, E-bow, harp, and rural accents are on the road searching for the last honky tonk “Six Miles From Brisbane” where they can get “Drunk Again” on a “Six Pack” (obviously not the Black Flag song). The harmonies are plush, the songwriting plusher, and the acoustics are so full, you’ll think all seven members must be playing them. Really good.
Jack Rabid, Big Takeover
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: CROOKED RAIN (SCOTLAND)
October 25, 2005
I always tend to associate Australia with glossily produced rock or pop outfits rather than country bands, alt. or otherwise. However Brisbane seven-piece Halfway are picking their way down this road with ‘Farewell to the Fainthearted’ on the same label as Gina Villalobos, the indigenous Laughing Outlaw.
The dozen songs on offer are well composed, well played ‘traditional’ country rock in the style of Ryan Adams and Wilco. The songwriters John Busby and Chris Dale bring their own environment into things with ‘Six Hours from Brisbane’ and ‘CQ Skyline’. ‘..Brisbane’ also brings some of that legendary Aussie bluntness ‘six hours from Brisbane/broke and bored and sniffing glue/hey fuck all your old friends keep your heart open/ I’ll be back for you’ Solvent abuse in a country song? Bonzer, mate! In fact, Halfway shatter most of my antipodean daydreams. En masse barbies, bronzed Sheilas and relaxed attitudes to work have been replaced by weariness, unrequited dustbowl love and enough booze to sink the QE2. Actually that last one WAS part of my daydream. The Raymond Chandler quote in the liner notes really does set the tone.
A slight criticism would be that Halfway don’t seem to properly cut loose with their venom and attitude. Maybe they do live, or maybe it’s just not their thing. This is an excellent listen and well recommended.
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY (USA)
August 30, 2005
Often times, the most authentic accounts of this great and tattered land in which we live come from an outsider perspective. The Rolling Stones have spent over 40 years and counting mining the depths of American roots music to brilliant results. Franz Kafka humorously and evocatively chronicled the myth and magic of a land whose soil he had never stepped foot on in his first novel Amerika. And Italian director Sergio Leone transformed the time-honored Western film genre by depicting a much more honest and violent landscape than the one romanticized in John Wayne films.
By way of 12 superb songs (plus a hidden cover of Little Feat’s “Willin'”), Australia’s Halfway triumphantly blends the best parts of classic American rock and country music into a near-perfect record as equally inspired by the highlights and lowlights of this great land as the Rolling Stones, Franz Kafka, and Sergio Leone were.
On this debut release Farewell to the Fainthearted, Halfway unleashes a flurry of steel guitars, dobros, mandolins, and banjos that intertwine beautifully with the tag-team vocals of Chris Dale (who also provides some excellent atmospheric harmonica throughout the record) and John Busby. Comparisons to seminal early 90s country-rockers Uncle Tupelo are certainly accurate, but Halfway actually has more in common with the lazy, twangy sounds of mid 80s cowpunkers the Meat Puppets. After all (as mentioned in the liner notes), the hot, arid lands of Halfway’s hometown of Brisbane are quite similar to the barren desert of the Meat Puppets’ home state of Arizona. With both bands, the lonesome whistling winds of their surroundings can be heard in each and every musical note, lyrical phrase, and plaintive vocal.
Farewell to the Fainthearted marvelously opens with two tense, rollicking, country-rock raves-ups (“Patience Back” and “Get Gone”) filled with the same kind of world-weary sentiment that can be traced back to both Hank Williams and late-60s/early-70s Stones. “Compromise for a Country Girl,” “Six Hours from Brisbane,” and “Timetables” are three largely acoustic ballads with nice traces of desert ambience and aesthetic similarities to country-rock godfathers Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Gram Parsons. “Drunk Again” and “Sure Uncertain” are hard-drinking anthems that contain as many hints of classic Aussie guitar crunch (a la AC/DC, Radio Birdman) as hardcore honky-tonk.
Meanwhile, psychedelic-country tracks “Something for Yourself” and “Call Anytime” would sound as appropriate in Topanga Canyon as the Australian desert. Halfway’s impressive debut winds down with a whimsical ballad (“C.Q. Skyline”) that contains references to driving, small-town misery, and listening to Big Star.
Farewell to the Fainthearted is a completely heartfelt statement by a collection of outsiders from one of the most remote locations on the planet – Brisbane, Australia. Leave it to them to produce one of the finest country-inspired rock albums in the last 10 or 15 years.
– David Virden, 8/30/2005
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: THE DAILY MIRROR (UK)
July 29, 2005
It seems odd that The Triffids aside, Australia hasn’t inspired more dustbowl country music from tearful twang merchants. This Brisbane band apply wheezing harmonicas, Stonesy grit and Gram Parsons’ melody to reset the balance. Line up the beers and hoot and holler like a cowboy king in a one-horse town – they’re playing your song.
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: NASHVILLE CITY PAPER (USA)
July 27, 2005
Halfway’s Farewell to the Fainthearted (Halfway) offers another Australian variation on the country field, with the band sounding appropriately rowdy on the songs “Get Gone,” “Drunk Again” and “Sure Uncertain,” then striking a pose midway between confused and resigned on “Compromise For a Country Girl” and “Patience Back.” “Six Hours From Brisbane” and “Miles & Miles” are nicely done road numbers, and lead vocalist/guitarist Chris Dale and vocalist John Busby are both quite effective in either featured or harmony roles. The seven-member ensemble can be upbeat, somber, exciting or restrained, and Farewell to the Fainthearted adds another impressive page to the ongoing ranks of Australians demonstrating their prowess with honky-tonk and hardcore country music.
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: ERASING CLOUDS (USA)
July 26, 2005
Anyone in the market for honest-to-goodness, no nonsense country-style rock – equal parts grit and honey? Halfway may be just the best steak on your barbie. The six-man Brisbane, Australia, group features brothers Noel and Liam (Fitzpatrick, not Gallager), who play pedal steel and banjo respectively. The group spent their youth, listening to country music on the AM radio stations that transmit round their homes and have appropriated classic torch and twang with pop sensibilities. The resultant album has an authentic country rock feel to it; crunchy guitars and big drums alongside touches of harmonica and dobro and stories of lovin’ and losin’ and gettin’ drunk. But Farewell To The Fainthearted doesn’t get mired in the lachrymose sentiments that clog up traditional country music; but it’s not ‘alt country; either. There are no Wilco-esque experiments here – just straight ahead blue collar songs that should find favour with rock and country lovers. Or maybe those who like a bit of both but can’t stand men in big black hats.
– John Stacey
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: NET RHYTHMS (UK)
July 18, 2005
I can only think that the name of the band came about because its members hail from Brisbane, Australia, which, I’m reliably informed, is in the middle of nowhere and so by definition must be ‘halfway’ between here and there. It’s as good a reason as any because it can’t be down to the music. There is nothing halfway, half-hearted or half baked about this collection of strident country rock songs.
Farewell To The Fainthearted is the album you didn’t know you had to have until you heard it.
The seven members of Halfway, including the Dublin born brothers Noel and Liam Fitzpatrick have taken Americana, alt country, country rock, or whatever else you want to call it, back to the wrong side of the tracks. These are songs about lives lived against a backdrop of rusted, broken trucks, dirt roads and stray dogs.
Farewell To The Fainthearted is a gritty, no frills slice of realism, set to unforgiving guitars played with an energy and belief that can only come from personal experience. Whilst tracks like Get Gone and Compromise For A Country Girl are anything but compromises, Halfway manages to avoid presenting Farewell To The Fainthearted as either bleak or depressing.
The rock n roll simmers and bubbles and its country influence, largely courtesy of the Fitzpatrick brothers, hasn’t been softened by city living. But what Farewell To The Fainthearted does, almost imperceptibly, is draw the listener into its web. In real life, love is never clean cut and there’s a kick in the teeth lurking round every corner for all of us.
Halfway play the soundtrack to an imperfect world. However in the midst of Farwell To The Fainthearted lies Miles and Miles Of Love, a song so tender that it appears that the band must have been caught in an unguarded moment revealing their gentle side. It’s made all the more poignant because it seems so isolated.
Farwell To The Fainthearted is a complete and self-contained album, nothing on it requires anything that the band and a small and select group of guests can’t supply. It’s stuffed with catchy, layered melodies carrying beautifully written and constructed lyrics but above all it generates its own heat. Even the accursed ‘hidden’ track works well, Lowell George’s Willin takes the band from its native Australia and plants it firmly in its spiritual home, southern USA. Halfway? Not a bit of it this is a band that’s already there.
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: AIDING & ABETTING (USA)
July 14, 2005
So can you call it Americana if the band is Australian? Why not? Seven guys in the outfit, and enough pedal steel and dobro to take me down the road apiece. Indeed, I can name a couple dozen bands around my little corner of North Carolina who would love to make music this good.
The songs are impressive, but I think I like the collective feel of the album the best. When you’ve got seven members (and a lengthy list of guests), a genial, collaborative sound often results. These ideas have been bounced off any number of folks, and they came back improved.
When I go to the beach later this summer, I’ll be packing this disc, a bottle of the finest bourbon and as little else as possible. Keep it easy, and make sure the ice cube bin stays full.
Issue #266, July 2005
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: WHISPERIN & HOLLERIN (UK)
June 21, 2005
Our Rating: 9/10
HALFWAY are a seven piece alt.country outfit who hail from Brisbane, Australia but who play music that is such an authentic and beautiful example of their chosen genre that it would be easy to believe that they grew up living next to Uncle Tupelo, went to school with Ryan Adams, hung out with The Jayhawks and had good ol’ Neil Young for an uncle.
All the right ingredients are here, lovingly crafted songs that capture love, loss, longing, the draw of open roads and the mystique of empty wind-swept spaces; acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, and harmonica all skilfully and sensitively played and put together with passion and feeling, a rock heart and a country soul.
But don’t be misled into thinking that this is just an album of overly familiar styling, you couldn’t be further from the truth, their Antipodean heritage provides a distinctive ingredient that contributes a subtle edge to the overall flavour.
Consider opening track ‘Patience Back’, a dusty glide that has at its heart a particular quality that side-steps American bands but can be heard in the work of say, The Triffids or The Go-Betweens. It is something that’s probably impossible to pinpoint or describe but its there and you know it can only be an echo of their homeland.
Again and again it’s there, in the lolloping gem of a song that is ‘Six Hours From Brisbane’; in the E-bow and pedal steel dominated ‘Compromise For A Country Girl’, but never more so than in ‘Something For Yourself’ a gentle but insistent song full of yearning and regret that builds almost imperceptibly to a breezy, optimistic closure.
Elsewhere they up the tempo a notch or two, never blatantly rocking out but ripping along with a captivating joie de vivre. ‘Drunk Again’ starts with great drums that boom-bap, boom-bap to drive along the twin electric guitars and introduce a tale of broken promises, failed resolve and enforced remorse (“Hey I’d give it up if not for the love of it”).
‘Get Gone’ is one of the greatest ‘glad to see the back of you’ songs with its chugging rhythm and determined refrain of “Get gone/shut your fucking mouth/be gone/you keep your whereabouts unknown”. Best of all though is ‘Sure Uncertain’, containing all the qualities of the Jayhawks at their best, mixing pop, rock and country, verses rolling along towards gloriously uplifting choruses full of wailing harmonica and fervently plucked banjo. Love it!!
So impressed have I been with this album, and so eager after each play to hear it again, that it was only on the fourth or fifth play that I discovered the ‘hidden track’ that is tagged onto official closer ‘C. Q. Skyline’ – a beautiful run through of Little Feat’s ‘Willin’’ – seventh heaven!
A stunning debut that is almost too generous in the promise it offers for future releases.
– Christopher Stevens
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: RAVE MAGAZINE
March 01, 2005
Country music from a big country town It is peculiar that Brisbane has been so slow to welcome alternative country rock music, especially when you consider how many of its residents have moved from rural and country settings. Maybe it’s the city’s constant desire to be more cosmopolitan that sees it so often turn its nose up at music which sounds like it owes something to Brisbane’s rural roots.
Halfway have been crafting their own brand of country rock for the past few years now, and their progression has been from a frustrated rock band incorporating elements of country like slide guitar and harmonica, to their current sound of a barroom country rock act, unembarrassingly embracing a lazier, spacier and more natural sound and feeling. They have waited until exactly the right moment to release their debut album Farewell To The Fainthearted, not for commercial reasons, but just because this sounds exactly like the kind of music they should be making, especially in comparison with their recent live shows.
Their origins in rock music are still visible; some of the tracks have a distorted guitar creeping in and they are not averse to occasionally rocking out a bit, but it is obvious that they are a lot more comfortable in the middle of the road. The real value in this release however, despite its honesty and the strength of its convictions, are the quality of the songs, which are very well organised, perfectly arranged and teasing with the most subtle of hooks. It requires and invites repeat listens, which is a testament to how well-crafted this whole record is.
FAREWELL TO THE FAINTHEARTED :: THE COURIER MAIL
November 20, 2004
Are you ready for the country? By: Noel Mengel
IN CASE you were thinking you have all the country-rock records you need — after all, you can cover plenty of territory with those Dylan, Band and Neil Young albums, right? — here’s something to change your mind.
Farewell to the Fainthearted is a record of shimmering beauty and honest emotions, 12 songs about loving, leaving, longing. Unlike so much Australian rock music, which tends towards the city, HALFWAY, have the wind in their hair and the promise of the long, lonely road ahead.
What’s more, these are roads that plenty of us know, since HALFWAY are a Brisbane band whose debut album was recorded in locations such as a Fortitude Valley studio and a Queenslander in Windsor. Four of the band, including singer-songwriters John Busby and Chris Dale, were members of rock band St Jude, who hailed from Rockhampton, put out a couple of tasty EPs and disappeared.
Meanwhile, Busby started thinking about the country music he heard growing up in towns like Barcaldine and Blackwater, and dipping back into those trusty Neil Young and Dylan albums. Dale was of a like mind, since he first met Busby when he turned up at one of the latter’s Rocky house party/gigs with his band, The Lads, and played a killer set of — you guessed it — Neil Young and Dylan tunes.
The HALFWAY line-up expanded with the addition of players such as Dublin-born brothers Liam (banjo) and Noel Fitzpatrick (pedal steel, dobro, mandolin), discovered playing in a trad Irish band at Dooleys in Brisbane. With Dale’s mouth harp and the E-bow guitar of Chris Hess, that gives HALFWAY a set of tonal colour that sets them apart from the rest of the inner-city crew. Not that those colours would mean much if they didn’t have songs to match. When you’ve heard these 12 (plus a secret track, and I won’t ruin the surprise) you want to play them again just to check they are as good as they sounded first time through.
Because country-rock albums recorded under our noses by a band most people outside of the Valley have never heard of aren’t supposed to be this great, are they?
Repeated plays confirm the quality, and that Fainthearted is just as strong as anything you’ve heard from the new generation of roots-rockers like Ryan Adams or Wilco.
Central Queensland is never far away, in songs like Compromise for a Country Girl, Six Hours from Brisbane and C.Q. Skyline, which namechecks Rockhampton localities such as Depot Hill and Yeppen Lagoon, while tracks like Sure Uncertain and Drunk Again are perfectly constructed slices of pop-rock.
It’s common for independently recorded albums not to go the distance, short of budget or time or a producer’s objective advice to say when the material or energy starts to flag.
But HALFWAY just kept working, playing, driving, thinking, recording, writing. The result is one of the best albums of the year, an album like, say, The Triffids’ Born Sandy Devotional, which captures the flavour of this country without resort to cliche or over-sentimentality.
Farewell to the Fainthearted won’t sell in Eagles-type quantities. But the deeper you get inside it, the more you think how many people would love it if they just get the chance to hear it.