Lori and Don Chaffer offer two distinct 'sides' of Waterdeep on this self-titled double-disc set.
indie / Hey Ruth Music (funded through KickStarter)
Disc 1 11 tracks / 44:42 Disc 2 12 tracks / 55:44
Waterdeep is an ample serving of music from Don and Lori Chaffer (and assorted friends, like Matt Slocum, Mike Crawford, Sandra McCracken, and Sarah Masen). The prolific couple, who have been working, with and without a band (as Waterdeep) since 1995, have divided the music into disc one, featuring Lori, and disc two, featuring Don. The effect is clearly two albums for the price of one, with the husband and wife displaying distinctly different musical personalities on this outing.
Five years ago, on the Pink and Blue project, Lori and Don were mom and dad, writing often light-hearted observations about parenting and being rock and rollers. This time the duo shows a more introspective, sometimes distinctly darker side, writing songs about love – sometimes lost, sometimes painful – and life's more puzzling elements. Five years after Pink and Blue we get something emotionally closer to Black and Blue – but there are also light, fun, and even inspiring moments on this project that spans quite a range of emotions and musical styles.
Lori's disc is the more introspective, 'indie' sounding of the two. With a voice that's both beautifully nuanced and vulnerable, her introspective style works well, and will delight fans of Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlan - the School of Histrionic Divas is pretty well ignored here in favor of a more subtle vibe. Fans of the family-band, Eisley will find some similarities here and there in some arrangements and even some of the vocal phrasing ("Great Disappointment," "Riverbed"). The songs are often piano driven and somewhat low-key, although Lori's quirky, more rock & roll side shows up on the caustic, "Bull," "I'll Come Home,"and especially on "Another Lover," with a delightful staccato delivery on this electric-reggae tune. Everything comes together on the memorable "Riverbed," where Lori delivers a full-voiced, impassioned vocal on a song with a great hook and inspired production.
The second disc is Don's, and is a different musical personality altogether. Hints of The Beatles, David Byrne and Adrian Belew haunt these tracks – all good company, indeed (both artists occasionally slip into some Lennon-eque phrasing at times). A bluesy western of a rocker, "Why We Don't Talk," might make you squirm a little and you'll know you're not in the worship circle, with its salty lyrics and aggressive attitude.
There are slight nods to country music, with the occasional lap-steel ("I Can't Remember"), and even a full-out western-swing novelty track, "Soul In My Condition." There are also moments of power and beauty on this disc, like the emotional build-up in "Shouldn't Have Walked Away," a wistful, painful song about first love – the phrase that is the song's title becomes a cry from the soul and an emotional high-point. "Nobody Likes A Loser," also builds to a magnificent bridge, using strings to just the right effect – there's a vocal similarity to The Elms' Owen Thomas somewhere in here, as well. If there's a tour de force on this disc it's "Boys Will Talk," a pounding, slow-steaming rocker that does everything right and ends with Don Chaffer at his most Byrne/Belew-ish, singing, "Now if you're not man enough for sorry / And you wait until the wound starts scarrin' / The least that you can do in the meantime is shut your mouth / If you really don't have a satisfactory answer, But you fancy yourself a pretty good dancer / Just do us all a favor. Shut your mouth..." The brilliantly-produced song ends with a trumpet playing taps and Chaffer yelping.
Many of these songs are character sketches of people having considerable trouble in their relationships – even to the point of anger and regret. In this case the Chaffers are simply good story-tellers, for those who might begin to get concerned – this isn't so much a diary as it is a collection of songs and stories.
Although the second disc ends with a hopeful – even triumphant – blanket of growing vocal harmony and a rhythmic, almost hypnotic singing/chanting of, "Mine is the hope of living / Mine are the crowns of kings / Mine is the shout of victory / Mine are the angels' wings..." the over-all lyrical content on both 'albums' is not nearly as optimistic, so be prepared. You'll grab one or the other disc depending on your mood – Lori's is more emotionally even in tone, and Don's is more manic and has more going on in terms of production and style - kind of a musical sweet and savory thing happening. As a matter of fact – if you don't like the mood one leaves you with then play the other – there's plenty of good music either way.