REMEMBER THE RIVER :: AMPLIFIER MAGAZINE (USA)
May 11, 2007
“I see a place where the fire is burning/In my mind, the wheels keep turning,” sings Halfway’s Chris Dale on his band’s sophomore album Remember The River. Like Springsteen, who believed that hope was a place you could drive to, Dale believes in the myth of the highway and that if you drive long enough, and far enough, there’s a good chance you’ll find it. Taking their cue from Gram Parsons, The Byrds and The Band, Brisbane, Australia’s Halfway play the kind of roots rock that lasts. Sharing vocal duties with guitarist John Busby, Dale and his bandmate soar through numbers like the Jayhawks-influenced, “River Roads,” the crushing country ballad “Factory Floor” and the banjo-driven “Chance” with seamless vocal harmonies. But this is by no means a two-man affair; with a seven-member personnel, Halfway manages a rich bed of instrumentation—the organ fills roll, the pedal steel lilts—making each number a stunning blast of lush roots rock. Elsewhere, “Dean & The Fitzroy” suggests The Bodeans; “Cherri Ann” wobbles with heartbreak; and the spare album closer “Edge Of The Peer” is a haunting meditation on mortality.
Alex Green (Amplifier Magazine)
REMEMBER THE RIVER :: MAVERICK (UK)
December 01, 2006
Down Under country-rock of the finest brand.
Its 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. It just so happens this particular ‘capital’ is Rockhampton, Queensland. Halfway proves that country-rock is about attitude and talent and not geography. It is also a band that has clearly outgrown the narrow confines of Rockhampton and the hooks riffs of REMEMBER THE RIVER will surely take it from the shores of Australia, this is 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 a unique and personal slant to alt.country, Wear Me Out for one is not the slavish following of a genre, its 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 bands Australian roots keeping it apart from the mainstream but its 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 a less 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 Dearest Mother and Factory Floor.
Halfway is drawing on collective experiences and it all adds to the albums 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.
Maverick Magazine UK Dec 06
REMEMBER THE RIVER :: WHISPERIN & HOLLERIN (UK)
November 16, 2006
Our Rating: 9/10
Talented songsmiths HALFWAY pretty much established themselves as Australia’s premier ‘Americana’-tinged band with their debut album ‘Farewell To The Fainthearted’ last year. It was a record that made (and continues to make) repeated journeys to the over-worked W&H stereo and now its’ erstwhile follow-up, the sublime ‘Remember The River’ 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), ‘Remember…’ is a consistent, passionate set, clinically devoid of weak tracks and the band’s 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 ‘Edge Of The Pier’ winds down.
But more of that a little further down the line. Let’s concentrate on how they got that far first. Opener ‘River Roads’ 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.
It’s soon followed up by the rich and descriptive ‘Dean & The Fitzroy’, full of allusions to the band’s native Queensland and propelled by Dale’s yearning vocals and Elwin Hawtin’s snappy drumming. Johnson and guitarist Johnny Busby push the chorus out further and Noel Fitzpatrick’s ghostly pedal steel seals up the melodic cracks.
From there on, Dale and Busby pretty much alternate on lead vocals. Dale’s voice is emotive and yearning (it’s difficult not to note tinges of both Ryan Adams and Jeff Tweedy) and just perfect for tracks like ‘Dearest Mother’ with its’ great, duelling organs and ‘Big Wave’: an edgy and fatalistic affair, carried beautifully by Johnson’s 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 ‘Left For Luck’ and ‘Cherri Ann’, where Halfway make like a heavier Burritos cryin’ a country-soul river, aided and abetted by a mournful, weeping fiddle.
It’s 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 ‘Billie Joe & The Bullyman’ which is discernibly ‘Gilded Palace’-ish in feel, yet – crucially – 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 ‘Chance’ ; the sorrowful and epic ‘The Ballad Of Liza Browne’ with its’ burning blue Sonic Youth guitar coda and the lovely, crestfallen closer ‘Edge Of The Pier’, which concludes in fine, defiant style with Dale singing “I was born to resist/ I’ll do more than get pissed/ I wanna live before I die.” A philosophy we’d 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. ‘Remember The River’ is a late contender for the upper echelons of those ‘Best of 2006’ lists and suggests that the allegedly ‘difficult’ third album may well be no hurdle at all for the eminently talented Halfway.
author: Tim Peacock
REMEMBER THE RIVER :: BILLY BOP (BELGIUM)
November 01, 2006
Mid 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.
Mr Blue Boogie
REMEMBER THE RIVER :: THE COURIER MAIL (AUSTRALIA)
October 26, 2006
Halfway down the right road
LOCALITY shouldn’t really count any more, since great rock ‘n’ roll bands can just as easily come from Nowhere, Nebraska, as the big smoke, and sublime country can be found in the heart of the city as well as out on the backroads. It’s all there for the imagining, wherever you happen to hail from.
Still, since Queensland is such a vast state and half the people you meet in Brisbane are from somewhere outside the city limits, it’s been surprising how little country and roots-rock influence there has been in our bands.
Until lately, with the rise of outfits such as Halfway, who sound like they know what it’s like to do plenty of long, lonesome driving, possibly in the company of a mix tape where Neil Young meets The Jayhawks.
The band’s 2004 debut, Farewell to the Fainthearted, won them a following among roots-rock aficionados in Australia and Europe and the equally strong Remember the River will spread the word even further.
You know the flavours: pedal steel, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, organ and piano providing the contrast to the rock ‘n’ roll swagger. But Halfway have the elements arranged just right, aided by a cast of singers and songwriters who know how to walk that line between the bitter and the sweet, between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
It’s got that “no, you sing this one” feel that a lot of great bands have. Guitarist Chris Dale and bassist Ben Johnson swap vocals on Johnson’s stirring opener River Roads, Dale’s gritty voice takes the lead on co-guitarist-songwriter John Busby’s haunting Dean and the Fitzroy (about a teenage friend of Busby’s who was murdered in Rockhampton).
Busby takes the microphone on his own Factory Floor, an extraordinary song set amid working drudgery but soaring for a better place with its harmonies and Noel Fitzpatrick’s stunning slide guitar.
And you know how the main street looks so empty and lonely on Sunday night after your friends have all headed back to the city? Well, Cherri Ann sounds just like that.
There is plenty more where these came from, all revealed as Remember the River opens up to deliver something even more splendid than the sum of its thoroughly admirable parts.
REMEMBER THE RIVER :: TIMEOFF (AUSTRALIA)
October 18, 2006 – Feature Album of the Week
The second album from Brisbane country-rock exponents Halfway finds them building on the critical acclaim afforded their 2004 debut Farewell To The Fainthearted and delivering one of the best local releases in many moons. In places there are hints of artists such as Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, Gram Parsons and Jesse Malin, but Halfway have found their own distinctly Australian sound and feel that renders such comparisons superfluous.
Vocalists John Busby and Chris Dale employ subtly different styles that complement each other perfectly, while the rest of the seven-piece band play their respective roles flawlessly, adding beautiful flourishes throughout the album without any one instrument ever being too prominent. Given that esteemed Australian producers Wayne Connolly and Rob Younger produced the album, it’s no surprise that it’s sonically excellent, but it’s the songs themselves that are Remember The River’s real strength – catchy opener ‘River Roads’, the wistfully melancholic ‘Cherri Ann’, the angst-ridden ‘Dearest Mother’ and the gently lilting ‘Factory Floor’ are standouts among a clutch of fantastic tracks.
There are a glut of bands around the globe treading the ‘alt-country’ path at the moment with mixed results, but with Remember The River, Halfway have proved themselves beyond doubt to be world-class proponents of the burgeoning genre. Big things await.
4.5 out of 5. Steve Bell
REMEMBER THE RIVER :: PENNY BLACK MUSIC (UK)
October 23, 2006
Reviewed By: Malcolm Carter
Following swiftly on from their debut ‘Farewell To The Fainthearted’, Brisbane’s seven-strong country rockers Halfway don’t disappoint with this new 13 song collection.
From the opening blast of ‘River Roads’, it’s 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 band’s 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 come…and it does) and bad (it’s hard not to keep hitting the replay button to hear the song over and over again). It’s a wonder to hear the duo sing “by my side” 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 it’s the fourth track on the album, ‘Factory Floor’, that I can’t 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 ‘Cherri Ann’. Awash with fiddle, that weeping slide guitar again and mandolin and particularly effecting vocals from Busby, it’s one of the most heartbreaking songs on the album.
But even when the band takes things at a faster pace as in ‘Billie Jo and the Bullyman’, it still works. To these ears there is little that is better than the band slowing it down as on ‘Favour For A Friend’ or ‘The Ballad Of Liza Browne’ 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 there’s 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 ‘Farewell To The Fainthearted’ 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.