So I've finally got some progress...then I flushed the Magento Cache Storage and now I no longer can access my site, even from cloning the working repo. YES...I checked my app/etc/local.xml and the login credentials to the db are correct, even checked for XML formatting errors. All clean. Added a new user to the db to test, it still came back with this error:
SQLSTATE[HY000]  Access denied for user 'root'@'localhost' (using password: YES)
Anyone else experience this problem? I'm getting very frustrated with the stability and delicacy of Magento. :( Not enjoying this learning experience so far as it keeps breaking.