Stylishness and taste like this only comes with experience. The five members of Water Street are all veteran performers who bring a wealth of knowledge and talent to the ten songs on the debut album Waiting for Martin. The songwriting, as well, sparkles with the sum of a life well lived as well as powerfully imaginative moments that strike universal notes. The songs make use of a wide variety of instruments creatively and with great restraint. Melody is in abundance throughout these songs and the twin vocal approach they take, alternating lead between songs while the second vocalist provides harmony, gives them a signature quality that many bands would kill for. The two vocalists, likewise, aid them in balancing themselves rather artfully between a light, credible mainstream stance and a much more artful take on traditional music in a modern frame.
One of the album’s best songs also opens things up. “Better Off Alone” obviously, based on title alone, lightly plays with some comedic elements, but the music doesn’t grovel in gimmickry. Instead, the music hits with a lot of impact thanks to the spectacular swing of the drumming and Dave Paulson’s colorful funk fills around the edges of the groove. His guitar skill gets another workout on “These Eyes”, but it’s much more in a traditional folk-rock vein despite its muscularity. His vocals are both of these songs are not the typical radio-friendly fare, but they are quite easy to connect with while still drawing listeners full on into the experiences of the song. “Foul Play” is another of the album’s more dramatic moments thanks to exquisitely timed and structured piano figures that vocalist Claire McNulty fills with color thanks to his singing. None of the album’s songs ever drone on too long, but when the band decides to expand the typical length like they do here, there isn’t a single wasted note or moment to tax listener’s patience.
“Something Anything” is one of the album’s most likeable tracks and succeeds in a big way thanks to the contrast between the lyrics, vocal delivery, and musical backing. The arrangement has a strong bounce in its step, but it’s more than that. The song has restless movement from its first note on and the energy is impossible to ignore. Paulson gets his spotlight vocal moment on the album’s longest track “Maybe” and he delivers spectacularly. He’s quite obviously hanging with every word and tailoring his phrasing to conform as much as possible with the song’s arrangement. “Donna Lee” is one of the album’s more relaxed moments and the lyrics do a superb job of characterization, but Waiting for Martin’s final peak comes with the concluding song “Colors”. Much like the earlier song “Something Anything”, the closer’s quality comes largely from the juxtaposition of its musical arrangement and lyrical content. Waiting for Martin embodies a variety of moods and approaches but keeps a solid consistency throughout that illustrates the talent of its participants. Water Street are more than a talented regional act – they are a band whose talents leave them teetering on the cusp of greatness. Let’s hope they topple over soon.
9 out of 10 stars