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HalfDown Thomas

September 1, 2009

HalfDown Thomas’ third album was blown away by Hurricane Katrina. Literally.

The band, which hails from the sleepy little backwoods town of Cullman, Alabama, had the honor of working on the record with 3 Doors Down’s Chris Henderson. They entered the studio in Mississippi, with Henderson producing, in 2005, laying down the tracks in short order. Then, the hurricane hit, leaving the studio, and the master recordings for the album, under twelve feet of water.

Not easily deterred by Mother Nature, the band and Henderson reconvened in the same studio (completely rehabbed from the hurricane damage) in 2006. Again, they laid down the tracks, completing the majority of the recording in three weeks’ time, only to find a computer glitch had rendered a large portion of the recordings unusable. Because they had meshed so well with Henderson (who said he really wanted to be involved in the rest of the recording), the band was willing to wait to work around his 3 Doors Down schedule in order to re-record the tracks that needed to be redone in Henderson’s new Rivergate Studios in Nashville in 2007.

“This band is so easy to work with,” says Henderson. “From a production standpoint, they provided me with a wide open palette, bringing some amazing riffs into the studio, then taking my suggestions to the next level in their continuing songwriting endeavors. And they’ve been so amazing about recording the album three times. It was not anyone’s fault; it’s just the way that things went down. But they took it all in stride and they made it fun.”

“Chris is the hardest-working guy I know,” says guitarist Wesley Smith. “When we were in the studio with him, he’d only get four to five hours of sleep before he was back to work. It was fantastic being in the studio with him. He’s very down-to-earth, and he gets what we are doing.”

The result is HalfDown Thomas’ third-full length album, “Beautifully Strange,” which will be released via Rock Ridge Music on February 17, 2009. In addition to Henderson’s production, the album boasts mixing by Geoff Ott (3 Doors Down, Nickelback, Unwritten Law) and Kirk Kelsey (3 Doors Down, Creed, Redding). Bobby Capps of .38 Special contributed vocals on several songs, and Ivan Arnold of Five.Bolt.Main engineered some of the album.

HalfDown Thomas (or HDT) was begun on the verge of the new millenium by a group of friends with one simple goal: to start a band and see how far it could really go. Eight years later, singer Randy Ayers, guitarist Wesley Smith, bassist George White, and drummer Mark Underwood are finding out. Starting as everyone does in sweaty little clubs, opening shows for renowned local acts, HDT spent their time developing a high-intensity stage show to compliment their hard-driving modern rock sound. The band came to the attention of their label after they won a Birmingham, AL, Battle of the Bands and went on to compete in the finals in Biloxi, MS. Henderson’s 3 Doors Down bandmate Todd Harrell was the creative force behind the contest. Rock Ridge Music CEO Tom Derr, who was a judge at the Biloxi contest, was so impressed by HDT that the efforts to sign them began immediately.

The band has continued to plug away live, sharing the stage with acts as diverse and influential as Kings of Leon, OutKast, Evanescence, and Fuel, just to name a few. At the same time, HDT has also worked hard to hone their personal sound. With two full-length releases, three EP’s, and numerous compilation spots under their belts, writing and recording have been a large piece of the equation. Somewhere between Pearl Jam and Nickleback, between Stone Temple Pilots and Breaking Benjamin, is where you’ll find HalfDown Thomas’ sound. Throw in individual influences as varied as Southern rock and 80’s hair metal, and what shakes out is modern rock alternative with scorching guitar solos, bombastic rhythm work, and attention to lyrical hooks that create an interesting and listener-friendly mix.

Just how far can four guys take a dream? The answer seems to be a lot farther than anyone expected. And they won’t let a little something like Mother Nature get in the way.

Check Out HalfDown Thomas Online – MyspaceWebsite

Halfdown Thomas – Beautifully Strange

August 25, 2009

Label: Rock Ridge Music
Rating: 4 Guns

Buy On:
Halfdown Thomas

Written By: Ben Millikin

Halfdown Thomas knows how hard it is to complete a great album. All of the practice and production that go into recording make for a lengthy, time-consuming process.
But when you mix in a hurricane, a massive computer glitch, and a busy engineer, you can only imagine how relieved the northern Alabama quartet was when the album came to a conclusion nearly three years after it began.

After having their mastered tracks flooded by the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the band had to wait a year for the studio in Mississippi to be refurbished only to lose more of their work to an unfortunate failing of technology. Then, after patiently waiting and working around the hectic schedule of Three Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson, the band was finally able to get out from under their recording demons and finish the album on the third try. And although it may have taken an extended period of time, Beautifully Strange, Halfdown Thomas’ third full-length release, was well worth the wait.

Right out of the gate, Beautifully Strange comes right at you with an extra dose of grit and energy that new listeners will be surprised by. The combination of various forms of metal, southern rock, and even a tinge of grunge reveal how the band has evolved over their lengthy recording endeavors and have even started to carve their own niche in contemporary rock. The use of some cool alien-sounding synths (“Come Inside” and “Beautifully Strange”) not only add some interesting ear candy to the mix, they give the songs more depth as a whole. And vocalist Randy Ayers displays why he is more than just your average frontman. Unlike a whole host of rock singers who are simply yell into a mic and hope some kind of melody comes out, Ayers takes time in crafting his lines. He is capable of blending into the different moods of various songs and at times he cuts through the mix with an amazing vocal range that is reminiscent of Eddie Vedder.

But the real driving force behind any great rock record lies in the riffs wielded by the guitarist, and axe man Wesley Smith is no exception. To the untrained ear it may simply sound like mere walls of distortion, but guitar enthusiasts will be able to appreciate Smith’s variety of tones and amps as well as his apparent heavy metal influences: the bright, cry-baby wah shred on “Come Inside” is a signature Kirk Hammett sound; the catchy neck slides on “Lost Chance” pay homage to the great Dimebag Darrel; and the lightning-quick finger-tapping licks showcased on “Burn” would melt the face of any nu-metal fan. Smith, has the rare quality of knowing when to back off and when to crank his half-stack up to eleven, giving all of the songs a unique dynamic sound.

For as much adversity as Halfdown Thomas went through, the effort and overall quality of Beautifully Strange is pretty remarkable. It may not win rock album of the year, but with their resiliency and determination, Halfdown Thomas has proven that they are an up-and-coming band worth keeping an eye on.

Like Halfdown Thomas? Check out: Breaking Benjamin, Fuel, Shinedown

HalfDown Thomas – Come Inside

August 21, 2009

Download “Come Inside” by HalfDown Thomas
off “Beautifully Strange” from Rock Ridge Music