The Watters attempt to move forward with brand new sound on debut LP

Chris Duncan

Although Great Unknown is their debut album, Austinites Daniel and Jenna Watters certainly aren’t new to recording music — they spent the past 12 years of their collaboration touring the country as The Oak Creek Band. With their renewed pseudonym, The Watters, and a catchy new album, the two singer-songwriters are looking to reinvent their careers.

The Watters’ foundation is built on its two core members, but Great Unknown features performances from nine other musicians playing anything from drums to piano and a beefy brass section, giving the album an invigorating and full sound. Overall, their newfound sound is predominantly Americana, but in moments, strains of country and jazz take over.

This technique of lacing in their influences both benefits and hurts this record’s feel. It’s not any particular song that suffers — in fact, each song brings its own charm to the table. Whether it’s the album’s opening single “Great Unknown” with its bluegrass and country feeling from Jenna Watters, or the jazz influence on “Strangest of Places” and the smooth vocals of Daniel Watters, each song’s main vocalist determines which artistic direction a song sways, resulting in very little blending of genres and a mixed experience throughout the project.

Throughout the album, it’s obvious that the duo value a live sound for their recordings. The Watters initially recorded the project to tape and built upon those tracks in the successive months. Even after that drawn-out process, nothing sounds out of place, overmixed or adjusted. Few albums can capture the organic feeling that dominates this LP, which gives off nothing but good and peaceful vibes.

But Great Unknown lacks almost any artistic risks. Other than recording their album live, each of The Watters’ 10 songs on this project sticks to a typical, straightforward style of composition. To perfect their sound, the duo and producers should find a way to combine Jenna Watters’ country influences with Daniel’s jazz tendencies, moving away from often polar opposite sounds to a more consistently risky, and hopefully successful, musical experience.

Taken as a group of individual tracks, Great Unknown is a catchy and resounding success despite its trend toward safety rather than risk. However, as an album, the songs only find moderate success, struggling to find a cohesive sound and message to propel their music forward. Whatever might come next for the group, their debut sets a solid foundation for future releases, as well as a chance to draw fans into their infectious sound.

  • Album: Great Unknown
  • Tracks: 10
  • Genre: Americana/Country
  • Rating: 6/10