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The Courier-Journal, Louisville

A Prophet walks among us

Rocker to lead last Waterfront Wednesday show

 

Chuck Prophet loves him some Heart. Those Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, absolutely rock. Heart's new album features a cover of Prophet's "No Other Love," which means a significant payday for an artist who doesn't see a lot of those. It helps that Heart does justice to Prophet's beautifully sad ballad.

Chuck Prophet began a solo career during Green On Red's final days and has probably performed or recorded with nearly every one of your favorite bands. "It wasn't sad when they recorded it," he said, laughing. "That was a good day for me, dawg."

Prophet is a funny guy. Conversation with him can veer crazily from films to books to music to absurdities, not necessarily in any order.

Ask him about writer's block and suddenly he's talking about crime novelist Jim Thompson. Mention digital recording technology and in seconds he's going on about filmmaker Lars von Trier. He sports an active, curious mind, which may be essential to surviving a 20-year career in a business noted for ignoring its best talent. When things get tough, there's always comfort to be found in a Sterling Hayden marathon.

Prophet and partner Dan Stuart helped define Americana music with Green On Red throughout the 1980s and early `90s. He began a solo career during Green On Red's final days and has probably performed or recorded with nearly every one of your favorite bands.

Saying that Prophet is only now peaking as a writer isn't a hard sell. His last four solo albums - "Homemade Blood" (1997), "The Hurting Business" (1999), "No Other Love" (2002) and the new "Age of Miracles" - are studded with powerful songs.

It's no coincidence that on the last three he has expanded his possibilities by exploiting digital technology in the arenas of recording, editing and performing. Once an example of straight-up traditionalism, Prophet has embraced tape loops, beat boxes and creative editing, but, unlike so many others, he uses it all to serve the song. Rarely have electronics sounded so organic.

"When Pro Tools technology came along, all the roots-rock Nazis were still arguing about vinyl sounding better than CDs, which is an easy way to get me to leave the room," he said.

"You can definitely use Pro Tools to get rid of all your mistakes. You can make something that's perfect. But the cool part is taking the mistakes and making them repeat so you get these really abstract hooks."

Live, Prophet remains a tough, visceral rocker - even a guitar hero. He will headline the season's final WFPK Waterfront Wednesday concert, on Harbor Lawn.

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by Jeffrey Lee Puckett on September 23, 2004 COMMENTS • Filed under Artist Profiles