Release Date: Feb 10, 2017
Record label: Yep Roc
Is Chuck Prophet a storyteller who just happens to be a great musician? Or is he a talented songwriter and guitarist who also has a real gift for spinning tales? On 2017's Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, his 12th studio album, Prophet has managed to strike an ideal balance between the two sides, delivering a tuneful and engaging set that's full of character sketches with a full complement of heart, soul, honesty, wit, and the details of a recognizable adult life. Prophet is capable of playfully imagining what it would be like to be the star of Nashville and Friday Night Lights ("If I Was Connie Britton"), then sharing the true story of a young man gunned down by the San Francisco police for no clear reason just a few tracks later ("Alex Nieto"). Both songs come off as smart, honest, and thoughtful despite their very different tone, and those adjectives apply to nearly every cut on this album.
"If I Was Connie Britton"? "Post-War Cinematic Dead Man Blues"? "Jesus Was A Social Drinker"? … with song titles like those, it's gotta be a new Chuck Prophet album. The one-time Green on Red guitarist has been carving out his career as a San Francisco loving, roots-rocking championing, dryly humorous -- some might even contend snarky — skewed observer of the human condition since his 1990 solo debut, with an attack, and band, that has only sharpened and become more focused in the decades since. Look no further than the title — and title track — of Prophet's first album in three years to know he's not only kept that approach, but has refined his skills.
Chuck Prophet is a big time rock and roll star in a country that has forgotten that it needs big time rock and roll stars. America turns its popular musicians into celebrities as if that's what we need more of. Meanwhile, the true grit, write it like you live it and live it 'til it kills you musical artist exists in obscurity, kicking ass and taking names in small clubs every night while sweating blood over making records that few people buy anymore.
Chuck Prophet revisited his roots for his 14th solo album by taking his band to the San Francisco studio where he recorded before joining Paisley Underground kingpins Green On Red in 1985. Inspired by rocker Bobby Fuller's mysterious 1966 death, Prophet explores the "California noir" lurking beneath the sunshine state with a sparklingly melodic set of classic poprockers bristling with lyrical intrigue, dynamic arrangements and telepathic playing. While Alex Nieto documents the innocent victim of a cop shooting, Bad Year For Rock And Roll reflects on Bowie's passing in 2016's grim death toll, compounded by In The Mausoleum homaging Suicide's fallen Alan Vega with a Jukebox Baby-style rockabilly groove.
There are a lot of men in the world, and a whole lot of them play guitar. At this point, one would think that the volume of hands fingering a finite number of frets and a mere six strings would have exhausted the supply of melodies and riffs, but somehow the songs keep coming. That's especially true in California. Along with almonds, weed and wine, male-varietal singer-guitarists are one of California's most bountiful exports.