“Jim Halfpenny has been an Austinite for only a small fraction of his life, but you’d never guess it from his music. Sure, his songs are full of sun-washed guitars that nod to his former career as a film composer in Los Angeles. But beneath this bright sheen is an earthy, country-based roots rock sound that’s right at home in the Hill Country. Halfpenny’s second album, Truth Trust & Other Ghosts, stays true to the elements that made his debut CD a solid effort. The music marries mainstream ’90’s alternative with Americana to produce tightly crafted songs that sit somewhere between the Wallflowers and Tom Petty. “Strokes of genius and poetry and gloom/I store them all in paper balls in the corner of the room,” he sings on “Aims and Wishes” – the album really punches when Halfpenny drives the music home with stark, relatable images.” – Alex Daniel, Austin-American Statesman – July 11, 2010
“This little gem is one of the better singer/songwriter albums that have come my way. Jim Halfpenny and his band have created a well rounded package that seems to have everything well in check. Catchy songwriting, experienced musicianship, and a quality well-polished production. Instrumentation includes soprano sax, mandolin, accordion, violin, and fretless bass for added depth. Halfpenny writes deep, thought provoking lyrics. “Like the cradle and the hearse, first things first” is a great way of saying death is just another beginning. The opening song “Pentagrams” has lines like: “She goes in 5 directions like the points on a pentagram, and when I look for haven in her eyes, I just see reflections of the fool I am.” The insert contains complete lyrics with landscape photography and cool graphics. With it’s musically KGSR friendly feel it’s a bit hard to categorize. Bluesy pop rock with a bit of Texas twang comes close. A dash of Americana? Sure, why not. Most songs are good, but my favorite is the final bonus track “The Long Bar”. A great classic drinking song and an ode to friends and family no longer with us, it wraps the disc up nicely. While he is also deeply involved in soundtrack work in his backyard hill country studio, Jim Halfpenny’s time would be better spent on projects like this.” – Maria Mesa, Austin Daze Magazine, Issue #59, June 2006
From the Southern California desert to the Texas Hill Country and everywhere in between there are stories and songs that reflect the very traditions and origins of the human condition. In his debut CD, “First Things First”, Jim Halfpenny has managed to infuse his humble beginnings and earthy roots with a pure devotion to telling lyrically exquisite stories and creating music that dares to cross many boundaries and encompass the emotions we have each experienced in our lives. From the acoustic driven rhythm of each song to the smokey vocals of Halfpenny which are only complemented by additions of spacey saxophone arrangements that linger in the distance, the simplicity of each song creates an experience that is anything but ordinary. By creating an album that dives into the rich history of American music and yet embracing the popular music that has come to fill airways across the country, Halfpenny has managed to build a bridge between generations and has produced a piece of work that will take you back to your roots, no matter what they may be. Although compared to the likes of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews; Halfpenny clearly stands his own ground and creates a sound that is sure to pull you in close and and keep you listening for the long haul. Jim Halfpenny has accomplished what many have attempted with a debut album that is truly unforgettable. If you haven’t heard this artist, let alone the album, be sure give him a listen and I promise you wont be disappointed. – Zak McKinney, AustinTXLive.com, November ’09
“An Austinite since 2002, Jim Halfpenny escaped L.A. after a successful career as a composer of film music with more than 20 feature films to his credit. His band debut, First Things First (Strong Domino), is filled with sturdy roots rock and occasional treks to Dave Matthews’ space jazz thanks to sax work from John Mills. Vocally, Halfpenny recalls the reedy sound of Drivin’ N Cryin’s Kevin Kinny” – Jim Caligiuri, The Austin Chronicle, Vol. 25 #50, August 11, 2006.
“Though this album is a couple of years old, it’s only recently landed at Maverick Towers and made such an impression we thought you all ought to know about it. California-born Jim Halfpenny was raised in a rural desert farming community and spent twenty-odd years in Los Angeles writing film and television scores. Then seven years ago, following a short vacation to Austin, Texas, Jim and his wife upped sticks and moved to the hill country just outside of Austin. This album, recorded at his own Back 40 Studios, is best described as rural, rootsy rock with strong country influences. All twelve songs are penned by Halfpenny—who plays guitars, mandolin, harmonica, organ, piano—and are best described as life-stories. The word pictures he paints in Paul Revere’s (a typical American bar), Nowhere Town (young lovers desperate to escape to find something better than no future at home) and Walkabout (the freedom of just living life without today’s stress and expectations) all make a big impact. Yeah—highly recommended.” – Laura Bethell, Maverick Magazine, Kent, England, December ’09 Issue
“My first impression of Jim Halfpenny’s Truth Trust & Other Ghosts focused on his voice. It’s clean and clear, but in an imperfect way — in other words, it has character. You may notice “character” as a quality lacking in the folks who make it onto shows like American Idol. It’s character that makes a voice interesting. Lots of people can sing — pop into any bar on karaoke night, and you’ll surely hear a couple performers who can truly sing — but holding a listener’s attention goes far beyond simply holding a note. The singer has to have a nuanced enough delivery to, for lack of a better phrase, keep it real. Well, that’s how it is in my little world, anyway. Welcome. Keeping it real. That’s exactly what Halfpenny does here. He sings about life — yours, mine, his — yeah, the experiences we all share even if we grew up at opposite ends of the world. His lyrics describe the world and the players on it in a wonderfully poetic yet understandable, earthy yet refined way.
In “Blind Pigs”, when Halfpenny writes: “She’s a liar. She’s a saint. She’s a stone cold sculpture of everything you ain’t. She’s a mother. She’s a wife. She’s a shadow in an alley with a switchblade knife.”… we can be pretty sure this song is about someone who used to be the love of his/your/my life, but things have gone, shall we say, a bit sour. The imagery is undeniably darkly beautiful, while the meaning is crystal clear.
My favorite track on the album is “My Class Ring”, which is a fun jaunt through my, um, I mean Halfpenny’s, high school years. The song has a perfectly understated B3 backtrack, a beautiful piano lead, and brilliantly placed guitars, that, along with the short staccato repeated words finish to the chorus and just the right amount of whitespace, give the song a special sound I’ve not often heard.
My other choice for favorite song is one that struck me the wrong way the first time I heard it, because it’s just so damn sickly sweet, and, let’s face it, I’m not a sentimental guy. But, you know, “Super Sam” grew on me, and I believe it’s because of the melody and instrumentation. The song is a perfectly produced love ballad, with a cute mix of guitars and keys and a low-key rhythm section. Gorgeous.
As I hinted above, producer Keith Davis deserves a lot of credit here. Davis has always been good at bringing out the best in the talented people he works with, including Tres Womack, Cody Hughes Davidson, and others, so I’m not surprised to see his name on yet another of my favorite recordings. Davis, a noted guitar player, seems to understand what it takes to let a song shine. I mean, the album gets almost jazzy in some — in fact, in just the right — spots. Mentioning Davis’s production, though, without mentioning Pat Manske’s brilliant mix would not be fair to Manske: there is not a note out of place here.
Truth Trust & Other Ghosts makes me want to seek out other Jim Halfpenny albums and also see a live show. I suspect it will make you want to do the same. See you there!”
RATING: 5 out of 6 Bullets – Steve Circeo, Americana Music Times – Sept. 26, 2010
“”First things first, LISTEN to this CD! Jim Halfpenny writes from the heart about things we all love and fear and then puts them to a beat you can cruise to.” – Bryan Beck, Morning Host/Imaging Producer, KGSR Radio, Austin Texas, January 2007