Water Street – Waiting for Martin
The impressive diversity on Water Street’s full length debut, Waiting for Martin, is far from the only stunner laying in wait for unsuspecting listeners, but it is their key distinguishing feature. Their ability to seamlessly shift between a variety of traditional styles, even digging up some not so commonly heard, without betraying even a hint of uncertainty or imitation sets them apart from scores of other solo acts and outfits who are basically musicologists disguised as vibrant musical artists. Water Street are the proverbial real deal. This isn’t simply a hollow recreation of past glories but, instead, a resonant evolution of a traditional sounds blending the modern and the bygone into one unified mix.
“Better Off Alone” echoes the subject matter of many popular songs, but Water Street casts it as a groove-oriented funk rocker with clean and biting fills from guitarist Dave Paulson. His voice is ideally suited for the material as well. It starts things off well to hear such an unusual singer wring every bit of potential drama from such a fine lyric. The rhythm section packs the weight of a first class rock and roll engine room. Second singer Claire McNulty the second track, “Tidal Wave”, on fire with a real blinder of a vocal and the band matches her intensity every step of the way. Water Street returns to the opener’s vibe on the song “These Eyes”, but it’s a much more relaxed effort with prominent guitar and a rock spirit percolating just below its surface. Waiting for Martin’s first real songwriting zenith, “Foul Play”, comes courtesy of Claire McNulty’s voice accompanied by her own cinematic fluency on piano. The lyrical content hits its peak here and McNulty delivers the song’s conversational poetry with great awareness and a sense of drama. It’s arguably the album’s moodiest piece to this point, but resists tipping over the edge into outright melodrama.
“Outer Space” has a fair amount of understated, playful humor and an ambling grace that comforts listeners from the first second on. Water Street are clearly expert at these relaxed narratives and the confidence carrying these songs isn’t paint by numbers; it’s born from their unique fluency with the material and the concurrent ability to impose their own personalities on the playing and songwriting.”The Storm” is another acoustic centered melodic turn from the band, but they conjure up some added atmosphere here befitting the song title and lyrical content. Another of the emotive peaks on Waiting for Martin comes with the song “Maybe”. It arguably elicits Paulson’s best vocal yet and he wrings every possible emotional variant from lyrical content specific enough to touch listeners will remaining open to interpretation. Water Street ends the album with the song “Colors”, a coming-together of sorts that dispenses with any inkling of gloom on the earlier tracks in favor of underlining the value of union. They finish the release off with the same free-spirited, light handed tastefulness setting much of the album apart from the recent spate of albums.
9 out of 10 stars.