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Halfway: Reinventing the Country Rock Wheel

Posted by November 22nd, 2005 No Comments »

Farewell to the Fainthearted
Laughing Outlaw Records

Sometimes, the problem with a record isn’t the record itself. Sometimes, the problem predates the record by a decade or four. Take Halfway, seven Australian lads who’ve crafted a compelling and poignant hybrid of country and rock (not to mention the obligatory nods to Fleetwood Mac-esque vocal harmony and pseudo-punk guitar crunch) with Farewell to the Fainthearted. If this recipe sounds familiar, it’s because Whiskeytown parlayed it to modest success and massive acclaim fifteen years ago, and the Replacements did it fifteen years before that. Farewell isn’t a bad record, not by any stretch of the imagination; it’s just been done before.

Fortunately for Halfway, originality is an endangered concept, and when the band borrows from any number of inspirations, they do so subtly and adeptly. John Busby’s raspy vocals hover beautifully above a foundation of guitar, pedal steel, and assorted accentuations, mostly of the stringed variety.

However, when one stops to decipher what Busby is singing about, the results are disappointing. What could be the narrator’s stirring plea for more from his lover (“Miles and Miles”) degenerates into a mish-mash of cliches, culminating with a chorus that would make even Robert Plant snicker (“I need miles and miles of love.”) This trend continues throughout the album, interrupted for brief stints of creativity and lyricism on Busby’s part, most notably with the album’s closer, “Skyline,” wherein the narrator longs to be “drivin’ around in your car, listening to Big Star, making enemies.”

The Big Star reference offers a small glimpse into the narrator’s psyche, which is more detail than we get from most of Busby’s offerings, and also serves as insight into another of Halfway’s inspirations. Then again, children by the millions wait for Alex Chilton, so, once again, Halfway has some pretty heady company. – (6/10)

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