Chuck Prophet, Cactus Cafe, September 26

Live Shots

Chuck Prophet

Cactus Cafe, September 26

Chuck Prophet has quite a few friends among the musicians of Austin. How else does one explain the large turnout of locals like Alejandro Escovedo, Beaver Nelson, Ethan Azarian, the Derailers' Mark Horn, Lisa Mednick, and Kevin Carroll among others, when the Cactus was less than half full. Perhaps the Bay Area-based guitarist was spurred on by the support of like-minded artists, maybe not. Either way, Prophet and his trio of backing musicians, including longtime companion Stephanie Finch on keyboards and vocals, performed an emotionally charged evening of songs and stories. With a shaggy blond mane and similar stature, Prophet recalls Tom Petty, but where head Heartbreaker sings in broad strokes, Prophet meanders a bit. From the swampy sounds of opener "La Paloma" and the Farfisa beat of "The Hurting Business," the title of Prophet's swell Hightone debut which made up the majority of the night's material, to the dizzying guitar workouts that punctuated several songs and the sultry soul of "Dyin' All Young," the singer-songwriter-guitarist took chances at almost every turn. They felt less like risks and more like natural possibilities with Prophet's sure-handed delivery and dominating stage presence, but his problem remains the same: attracting an audience. How do you sell something that truly slides between the cracks, between soul, rock, folk, blues, and country? His music cuts and pastes from such a broad palette that describing it accurately is elusive. Still, his sense of melody and hooks is unmistakable. Songs like "Diamond Jim" and "You Been Gone" were fiery and loud, yet despite their electricity, they possessed an undercurrent of folk music; Prophet is one of us, alright, he just uses a different way to communicate the time-worn emotions of love, loss, and forgiveness. The musicians in the audience undoubtedly understood this as they soaked up some of Prophet's energy. The rest of us witnessed a unique performer doing his best to help us understand that music is best when it can't be described and that sometimes the square peg does fit into that round hole.

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