Cover artwork
some of his most infectious tunes

No Depression

Like Joe Henry, onetime Green On Read Stalwart Chuck Prophet has evolved since his alt-countryish beginnings into a refreshingly unlabel-able artist who, in mixing and matching genres, thrives on offbeat textures and carefully etched moods. One difference is that while Art has been whispering a little too loudly in Henry's ear of late, Prophet has over the course of seven solo albums raised his accessibility as he has honed his vision. His new album, Age Of Miracles, features some of his most infectious tunes. If not quite as challenging as its two immediate predecessors in drawing from `70s soul and back-porch blues to hip-hop and Moogified pop, it's more cohesive and consistent. While there's a current of modern unease running beneath the tunes for Prophet's craggy baritone to bring out, the album has a brightness of purpose that lifts even the sad stuff. He may not have written a more convincing feel-good song than "You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)", which answers the age old question, "Who put the bomp?" (as posed by Bill Building wordsmith Barry Mann), with a loving expression of gratitude and a seductive hip-hop groove. "Just To See You Smile" is nearly as uplifting, and with Prophet's wife Stephanie Finch on answering vocal, "You Got Me Where You Want Me" (one of two tunes written with Kim Richey) happily completes a romantic trilogy of sorts. Another knockout song is the oddly affecting "Smallest Man In The World", which can be read as a meditation on freakdom, or fame, or both. With its Chinese menu's worth of guitars (including baritone, tres and lap steel) and keyboards (including organs, electric pianos, synthesizers and harpsichord) and other instruments, Age Of Miracles could have you playing a game of name that effect. That it doesn't is a measure of how successfully Prophet integrates the musical styles that influence and move him -- and how well the songs, separately and as part of a package, work. "Who cleared the static and made it sing?" He did.

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by Lloyd Sachs on August 31, 2004 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (Age Of Miracles)