Americana poet lets his musical intentionality and heartland spirit shine through in new album
Chuck Prophet’s no stranger to the music scene. Fresh off his high school graduation in the early 1980’s, he cut his teeth with a band called Green on Red, a psychedelic rock group similar to the likes of The Animals. After a long string of EP’s and albums with the band, Prophet struck out on his own in the ’90s with his first album, Brother Aldo. From here, he developed a strong Americana-style lyricism with the guitar licks and bass drum to back up his vocals. Prophet shows a methodical side to his music, with every lyric and every note serving a greater purpose within the song.
With his newest album, The Land That Time Forgot, Prophet continues his experimental Americana themes and places them carefully on a deeply introspective lyrical frame. For example, he examines himself and how he lives in the first song on the record, “Best Shirt On.” He mentions “sometimes I fall,” and “sometimes I float/ But it keeps getting harder and harder to make it on my own, but I’m trying.” This deep personal narrative about trying to survive in a bustling world is paired with a driving kick drum. In an example of the incredible intentionality behind this album, these lyrics paired with that kick drum give the song a dimension of time. It feels as if years were almost passing as the track unfolds, and people can see the speaker growing personally.
Another example of the intentionality of the music, and the careful placement of every note or lyric, is the record’s third song, “Marathon.” In this particular track, Prophet is backed by Stephanie Finch, his wife, frequent collaborator and fellow musician. The structure of the song works like this: Prophet sings a line, then Finch will either repeat the same line, or change the line slightly, retaining the same cadence and rhythm. This gives the song a conversation-like feeling to it. Yet, because the song is about empathizing with and helping a partner in need, lines like “til’ we all fall down” and “so you don’t have to feel alone” are sung in harmony. By juxtaposing the back-and-forth of the verses with the harmonies of the chorus, Prophet give us a look into the rambling mind of a couple.
Prophet’s storyteller side comes out to play in full force in The Land That Time Forgot. He contrasts stories of profound historical importance in “Nixonland” and the shortcomings of politicians, with seemingly common yet intricate stories of lovers in “Willie and Nilli.” He demonstrates his widespread knowledge of living and is able to offer portraits of people in various settings, situations and even time periods.
Because of his now almost-four-decade-long tenure in the music industry, it’s clear that Chuck Prophet has found his musical sweet-spot: highly technical, Americana stories about the common person. The Land That Time Forgot is no exception; it combines an impressive lyrical proficiency with an awareness of the world and traditional melodies. Because of these qualities, in this album, Chuck Prophet does his best impression of a wise grandfather sitting in his rocking chair telling stories to his grandchildren, and the musical world is a better place because of it.