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Halfway Houseband: Halfway Houseband


"Stuck In Range," which leads off the self-titled debut of the Yale-based folk-rock group the Halfway Houseband, is as perfect a genre example as you're likely to find. Over a supple, quiet rhythm section and a rootsy acoustic guitar, we get laid-back lyrics: "My eyes still see the sun when I'm high/It seems all right, nothing's changed." Yep, we're deep in Deadhead territory here; the Halfway Houseband's acoustic instrumentation and wistful-but-upbeat lyrics give off front-porch good vibes that could have come straight from American Beauty or Workingman's Dead.

I'll be up \front with the fact that this isn't my scene, but I have to be impressed by the band's skills. For a self-released CD-R, Halfway Houseband is a surprisingly tight and polished album. Excellent production gets the band's rustic sound out with minimum fuss, and there's some deft arranging going on here: wonderfully smooth basslines tastefully

compliment the acoustic rhythm guitar, while the occasional gentle electric leads flow gracefully in. I don't know if they've served as an actual house band, but they've definitely got their chops down—other than a few rhythmic slips, the group's sound is organically tight.

But what about the songs? Unfortunately, for much of the album, they're pretty similar; of the first six songs, only the flamenco-tinged "The Goose" grabs me with any urgency. As the album progresses, however, the band takes a turn away from folk-rock and towards a more traditional style, and the emotional heft of the songs gets a major boost. "Dealing to Davey Jones" makes elegant use of violin accompaniment, while "When the Fence Falls Down" brings in a harmonica; "You're Like an Angel," a heartbreaking minor-key ballad, avoids the clichés that mar Halfway Houseband's more upbeat tracks, making it the album's songwriting high point.

As its technique makes clear, Halfway Houseband is a talented group of musicians, and if the last few songs on the album are any indication, they're capable of transcending the good-times clichés of their genre and writing songs that connect on a deeper level. If they can do so consistently, they might yet make an album that's worth a listen even if you're not still grieving for Jerry. (Self-released)

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