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Monday, Jan. 25, 2010

Chuck Prophet

Let Freedom Ring (Yep Roc)

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At the heart of hugely underrated singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet’s sound there’s always been a kind of tug-of-war among disparate eras. In turns Petty-esque, Springsteen-like and generally rife with Stones swagger, there’s also an undeniably coy, modern indie slant. Sure there’s “Born to Run”-style driving guitars, and even some “shoobie-doo-wop” backing vocals, but, hey, LeBron James gets name-checked too. In fact, Prophet’s latest sounds a bit like Franz Ferdinand after an all-night bout of Studs Terkel: old-timey, good times rock, but with a conscience.

Prophet empathizes with the downtrodden (“What Can a Mother Do”), apologetically pokes fun at his roots (“American Man”) and seems generally earnest in hopes of a renewal in the Americana from whence he borrows so much of his sound. From jangly country rockers to straight KLH-style distortion, what mostly comes out is a from-the-hip, nostalgic take on the American ennui that was 2009.

The songwriting peaks may be clearest on the introspective tracks—“Leave the Window Open,” or the lovely “Love Won’t Keep Us Apart”—but as a whole the album feels like something more. It’s a sensible, rollicking, perhaps important look at the hard times of the moment.