The first album from New Jersey five piece Water Street entitled Waiting for Martin is another timely reminder that decidedly retro themed music can still strike a relevant chord in the music world. The sincerity on display throughout these ten songs is beyond dispute. Water Street isn’t a band willing to pander to the lowest common denominator in the belief that any attention is good attention; instead, their songwriting addresses serious adult themes in a thoughtful, sometimes poetic, fashion and the musical arrangements attempt to approximate those themes sonically without ever becoming too heavy handed. The band’s presentation benefits in a big way from their multi-instrumentalist approach. It means listeners can never be entirely comfortable what they will encounter from song to song, but Water Street keeps their vehicle between the lines and never pitch any surprises the audiences way that sound too far removed from their roots. Another key to the album’s success is their use of two distinctly different singers.
The first inkling of the aforementioned qualities comes with the opener “Better Off Alone”. Vocalist and guitarist Dave Paulson gives the songs he’s involved with a fine quirky air thanks to his slightly nasal delivery and dramatic phrasing. His guitar work is another big reason why Waiting for Martin gets off to such an inspiring start. The first half of Waiting for Martin focuses on Paulson’s guitar, even on numbers like “Tidal Wave” where McNulty’s vocals take control, and his six string work is certainly quite capable of carrying the songwriting and performances on its shoulders. There’s a warm, brown tone coming from his axe that should be familiar to all guitar lovers and his instrument is recorded with impressive intimacy. “These Eyes” continues the theme of his dominant guitar, but the energy is more diffuse here than before
There is a decided shift in the album’s direction beginning with the fourth song “Foul Play”. McNulty takes over on vocals and delivers a real emotional blinder where she dredges up every bit of chagrin and heartache from within that’s needed to push this performance over the top. The piano accompaniment adds a resplendent level of lyricism to the song, even if it does shade the atmosphere a darker color than what we’ve heard before. The next three songs take a sharply focused acoustic approach and the finest among them, “The Storm”, does an excellent job of marrying the traditional seriousness of folk music with an understated humor that might surprise some listeners. “Maybe” is the album’s other big balladic moment and tops even the earlier “Foul Play” for its patience and the careful consideration they show unwinding its riches. The album’s falling action, bunched up in its final two songs, revisits the airy acoustic charms of the earlier trio of songs while still clearly pointing to the release’s conclusion. The finale, “Colors”, manages to mingle a bit of the bittersweet alongside its open-hearted brightness. It puts a fantastic exclamation point on Water Street’s debut.
9 out of 10 stars.
William Elgin III