Beth Waters | This Little Piggy (Mermaid Mafia)

cd_bethwatersWaters' third album on her own label builds in intensity and curious details until the initial seeming lack of originality gives way to a much more lasting impression. This woman is a keen observer of life, a deeply empathetic soul, and a truly devoted musician.

 

 

 

 

An interesting thing happened while I was listening to this CD by Bay Area singer/songwriter Beth Waters. At first, I thought I was listening to another silky voiced, sincere but unexceptional female singer. By the end of the disc, however, it became clear that Waters is genuinely gifted, and has a broader range of lyrical concerns (and musical predilections) than many of her peers.

This Little Piggy, Waters' third album on her own label, builds in intensity and curious details until the initial seeming lack of originality gives way to a much more lasting impression. This woman is a keen observer of life, a deeply empathetic soul, and a truly devoted musician. A couple of her songs have already been featured on TV shows (including the popular drama One Tree Hill), and it's likely that more will be in the future. The potency of Waters' piano playing and emotionally direct singing is more than apt for any number of angst-ridden shows. The 11 songs (ten originals and a somber, piano-driven take on Paul Simon's "Slip Slidin' Away") are far more than just predictable romantic-themed fodder.

Several songs deal with refreshing awareness of the world's ills, as exemplified by the sharp-edged cut "Not Mad Enough": "There are no words, no words to describe it/ Ankle-biting pain /So what, so what, the world's gone down the toilet/ I didn't make it that way/ And it's so sad, and we're not mad enough to change it." Waters employs a nervous, off-kilter chord progression on her acoustic guitar that suits these lyrics perfectly. It's a memorable tune, and it pairs effectively with a similar one called "Get Off This Planet." Then there's a gear-switching, delightfully jazzy tune called "Dark Road to Hell." Waters feels no need, clearly, to use ambiguous song titles. The drums on this track are stellar, and so is the entire arrangement.

Possibly the most unforgettable song is "Nice Guys," which really puts Waters in a class of her own. On this achingly melancholy piano ballad, Waters sings "The stars tonight, they're so bright/ And they make me think I could learn/ I could learn to be happy with you forever/ The ancient world must have seen/ The same sky over their heads…It's okay to like nice guys/ They're soft and warm and sweet." In a few verses, Waters conveys the power of the night sky to inspire reflection, a recognition of the need to change due to time's inevitable march forward, and her revelation (made clear in one specific passage) that the devotion to a so-called "nice guy" is more fulfilling and healthy in the long run than staying with a man who is arrogant and belittling. It's a striking bit of self-expression, and someone somewhere is gonna tear up over this song.

Another highlight is "Afraid of Love," a bouncy, vaguely tropical-flavored tune that gets the toes a-tappin' and the smile a-widening. It's a cleverly arranged, irresistible tune that represents a peak of craftsmanship before Waters ends on an intriguing bit of pathos with the Simon song. It does take a few listens to really appreciate the emotional candor and stylistic diversity of Waters' music. But she's far more than just another pretty voice, and This Little Piggy will hopefully help this promising songwriter bring home the bacon. B | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Jonatha Brooke

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