August 24, 2007
Halfway to Hazard
Halfway to Hazard
Shrieking diva syndrome. It’s an affliction that has corrupted many a talented female vocalist. They mistake screaming for singing, intensity for interpretation. They errantly believe that the louder they belt the notes, the less likely we are to notice the mediocrity of the lyrics. It’s a well-documented problem in pop music that has spilled over to country music in the past ten years or so.
Not content with the genre being tainted by the excesses of pop music, we’re now being subjected to the male rock band equivalent of shrieking diva syndrome. The eighties hair bands are back, my friends, and they’re trying to pass themselves off as country bands. The debut album of duo Halfway to Hazard reminded me at times of Guns ‘n’ Roses, and I don’t mean the tight, brilliant Appetite For Destruction Guns ‘n’ Roses, either. I’m talking about the “Axl Rose playing a dead groom in Tuxedo getting pummeled by the cold November Rain and the damn song never ends” Guns ‘n’ Roses.
Halfway to Hazard is all of the excesses of eighties hair band rock without any of the virtues. The screaming vocals are here, but the melodies aren’t. The amps are cranked up to eleven, but the musicianship is merely pedestrian. And the lyrics? Every cliché that you can imagine is regurgitated. Country boy needs to get out of the city? Check. Prodigal son of a preacher man? Check. Fighting back like Daddy taught me to? Check. Good woman trying to change a hard-living music man? Check and check.
It’s all been done before, but the duo tries its best to distract us with loud guitars and louder vocals. Songs are artifically extended with musical breakdowns that are as flavorless as they are endless. All but two of the songs clock in at over four minutes, with a significant number passing the five minute mark. It’s hard to believe that Tim McGraw, master of the contemporary country hook, and veteran Byron Gallimore, didn’t rein in the excesses of these unwieldy tracks.
In the few quiet moments, which are far too fleeting, there are some solid vocals and harmonies. It should have been obvious in playback that the primal screams and trashy language teetered between unbelievable and comical. I can understand why a young debut act could think that sounds cool, but where were the wise men behind the console while the kids were going crazy in the studio?
More than anything else, this album fails because of the weak leadership that a pair of talented kids received from two Music Row veterans with talent to spare. They sound like they’d be a great live band, but they weren’t given the proper guidance and artist development to make a good record, as if it was just decided to see if they catch on in their raw form, and then move on to the next new act if they don’t. Welcome to Nashville, indeed.
Buy: Halfway to Hazard