The first time I played Waterdeep's new album for my housemates, they were up and dancing within seconds. Midway through an exuberant Temptations-meets-Michael-Stipe-meets-former-Deadhead routine, one of them pointed triumphantly at the stereo. "You see?" he shouted over the full-throttle rock and roll pounding from the speakers. "You see what Christians can do?"
That's the thing about Waterdeep: They're unmistakably Jesus-y, and they're also really, really good musicianssomething a lot of "Christian" bands don't necessarily have going for them. In fact, you could argue that Waterdeep's lyrical-honesty-cum-musical-talent is their shtick, except they're too genuine to have one. The unassuming Kansas-based band has flown under the radar of mainstream music for years, quietly building a huge, devoted fan base and selling 150,000 copies of their six independent releases in a grassroots sneak-attack.
Waterdeep's growth was temporarily stunted last year, however, when they faced a flood of personal and professional tragedy. Bandleader Don Chaffer (vocals/guitars) lost his mother to leukemia in July 2001; his father was diagnosed with cancer four months later. Meanwhile, the only record label they'd ever dared to sign with was falling apart, leaving the group frustrated and broke. And then came Sept. 11. Believing that, as Chaffer says, "the grieved heart needs room to breathe, reel, and fall before rising again," Waterdeep announced an indefinite hiatus.