It's still a stellar decade for Chuck Prophet-partly because he keeps working through the ordeal of the 15 years that came before. His white-boy blues predated Americana, and he was too sensitive to be a garage rocker. That's how he got stuck being a country-psych sideman in Green On Red. By the time Prophet matured into white-man blues, Americana was too much of a niche market to contain him. His recent string of impressive albums has depended on whatever audience finds him between the cracks.
A lot of that audience is in Europe, and Prophet could be coasting as an intellectual hillbilly. They love that kind of thing over there. Instead, last year's Soap and Water is almost a typical collection of ambitious ramblings. He's playing a little more R&B, and there are some ragged, faster songs that finally get him close to garage rock-but only because Prophet's hung around long enough for the genre to get sensitive. You could compare the record to Dylan or Costello, but that praise is a little faint nowadays.