Bring on the Emotive Pop

Room For Two (Independent)
Watson Park

By Kevin Gibson

Lexington's Watson Park caught my ear when I happened to see them at the Rudyard Kipling late last year. Always happy to help out up-and-coming musicians, I bought their CD - and then didn't listen to it for two months.

I'm glad I finally spun it.

Watson Park plays pure pop, relying on hooks and great melodies to draw the listener in and delivering emotional stories to go along with the emotive arrangements. I'm a sucker for stuff like this; I admit it.

Philip Dunn's gentle voice is perfect for the medium as well. For instance, "The Interstate" is a piano-driven ballad with some gentle cello mixed in for nice effect and Dunn sings like he's a pop balladeer creating his Top 40 masterpiece in preparation for a world tour.

For my money, it's a song like "Medication in the Key of G3" that really stands out, though. The band's drummer, Nate Staggs, has long battled leukemia and the song is about his difficulties, punctuated by the simply lyric, "It's gonna be all right." I mean, that's real.

"February Seems Colder This Year" takes a slightly darker approach, utilizing some nice imagery, while "Lowering the Noose" rides a lovely acoustic guitar rhythm into an anxious, mid-tempo rocker. And "The Waitress and the Catholic" tells a story about a regular person's struggles and posits, "You've only got so much time to live your life."

The production is at times uneven and at times it feels there is a bit too much going on - sometimes, less is better - and occasionally Watson Park may push the envelope too far when simple might be the way to go. But what this disc does is show promise. The band is recording a new CD even as we speak; I'm guessing it will be a good one.

Check out Watson Park at www.watsonparkmusic.com; or, see them live March 29 at Common Grounds in Lexington.