Chuck Prophet - !Let Freedom Ring!
Not an everyday occurrence, admittedly, but Prophet remains the only performer I’ve ever heard quietly slag off his audience to a fellow band member just minutes before going onstage to play for them. (“Look at all these f***ing sheep”, he drawled to Green on Red partner Dan Stuart. Trent Poly, 1989. I was there. It happened. Makes me smile to this day.) Since the band fell apart not long after, Prophet has done well with his particular blend of spit and sawdust blues rock, releasing albums regularly and playing and writing for the likes of Aimee Mann, Jonathan Richman and Lucinda Williams. ‘!Let Freedom Ring!’ was recorded in Mexico City last year. Prophet’s smart liner notes tell the story, the album pieced together in just 8 days with the help of blackouts, police corruption and an earthquake. (“With the paint barely dry on a shoebox full of songs and the telescope pointed backwards, we rolled tape and with the punches …”)
‘!Let Freedom Ring!’ is a beautifully realised slice of soulful rock ’n roll and exquisite song writing. As always, the guitar playing is exemplary, breathtakingly good on the soaring title track where his double tracked solo is an unholy marriage of Keith Richards and Tom Verlaine. ‘Sonny Liston’s Blues’ kicks in the door with that trademark Telecaster snapping off all over the place. ‘You and Me Baby (Holding On)’ is a beautiful ode to growing old and growing apart. ‘American Man’ is wry with its politics, from the same mould as Springsteen’s ‘Glory Days’. ‘Hot Talk’ struts like early 70s Stones and the breathless delivery carries lyrics poignant and true. ‘Leave the Window Open’ is the most heartbreaking take on ‘Me and you against the world, babe,’ I’ve heard in quite a while. The mix of bluesy balladry and bar band rocking is smartly placed throughout.
A work of honest, soulful endeavour, ‘!Let Freedom Ring!’ is a timely reminder that, amidst the recent clamour for anyone who’s managed to buy a plaid shirt and go without a shave for a few weeks, there were those who stood above the scene long before the scene existed. If you subscribe to ‘Uncut’ and you're comfortable using the word ‘Americana’ in polite conversation, I’m offering you a risk-free recommendation.