Legendary music critic writes about Halfway in the US Rolling Stone. “A sublime country dusted album… combining the pub army heft of The Waterboys ‘Fishermans Blues’ with the dream- state Nashville of Lambchop and pioneer storytelling of Johnny Cash & Queensland icons The Go-Betweens.”Read More
Halfway is an eight piece band based in Brisbane, Australia. Three of the members – John Busby, Elwin Hawtin and Chris Dale originally hail from Rockhampton, Central Queensland. After moving to Brisbane and recruiting the like-minded Ben Johnson (bass), Halfway was formed in 2000.
Joining shortly after were Dublin born brothers Noel Fitzpatrick (pedal steel) and Liam Fitzpatrick (banjo/mandolin). The finishing touches to the lineup were added with the inclusion of ex-Go-Between John Willsteed (guitar) & Luke Peacock ‘The Bird’ (keys/guitar).
I remember Ron Peno, the flamboyant singer from Died Pretty, once telling me a story about when he first moved up to Brisbane in the early 80s, to get together with guitarist Brett Myers to form the Pretties.
He related how he’d been warned by people, Watch out up there Ron, it can be dangerous with Bjelke-Peterson and all that, they don’t take kindly to southerners, especially ‘wierdos’ like you… And Ron couldn’t quite understand what they meant; until, he laughed, he hadn’t been off the train but for a few minutes – likely sashaying along in leather or latex – before he was picked up by the cops…
If that’s what Brisbane was like, imagine how much harder it must have been in Queensland’s outlying regions!
The duo at the core of Halfway, John Busby and Chris Dale, come from Rockhampton, and well do they recall how hard it was growing up in the self-proclaimed Beef Capital of Australia in the 1980s.
The first (fullscale) song on this album – and really its scene-setter and centerpiece – “Bret Canham’s Leather Jacket,” is about a kid they knew who, with his penchant for ‘weird’ clothes/hairstyles/music, stood out in Rocky the same way Ron Peno did in Brisbane, and who similarly suffered for it… but who equally refused to submit; who flaunted it, and wore a defiant smile even as he was knocked down; who eventually fled town and lived his dream, or at least gave it a shot, in a by-then relatively more tolerant Brisbane.
Which is a not dissimilar narrative arc to that of Halfway themselves. From Brisbane, it’s a long way to go to Nashville to make a record that’s not very country, and is very Rockhampton – but just as Grant McLennan, who was conspicuously also a Rockhampton boy, had to go to London to write “Cattle & Cane,” it’s often, as they say, only the road out of town that leads you back to yourself.
And whether or not Bret Canham’s story – or Ron Peno’s, or Halfway’s for that matter – has a happy ending, the point is that Halfway go all the way. They are giving their dream a shot too, and they know that ultimately the only thing that might beat them is the inexorable passage of time itself..
Clinton Walker, 2016