PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Chuck Prophet: Age of Miracles

Zeth Lundy

Chuck Prophet

Age of Miracles

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2004-09-07
UK Release Date: 2004-09-20

Chuck Prophet is a reliable talent, as comfortable and effortless as an old pair of boots. He's the songwriter you can turn your friends on to and still take home to mom on the weekends. Unfortunately, he's also the songwriter whose solid output is frequently taken for granted. Each new record he releases holds the promise of a mainstream watershed moment, but ubiquity has conveniently and consistently escaped him. Lucinda Williams offered Prophet the opening slot on a recent tour, thanks to the strength of 2002's No Other Love; despite such cross-promotional endorsements, it's safe to assume you're more familiar with brothers-in-spirit like Joe Henry or Ron Sexsmith.

Maybe the recurring theme of neglect is simply in the stars for Prophet. He first appeared as a blip on the roots rock radar screen as a member of Green on Red, a band that helped usher in the alt-country resurgence of the early '90s. The band had dissolved by the time more prominent torchbearers like Uncle Tupelo began sprouting like an overgrown cornfield.

Age of Miracles is Prophet's seventh album since Green on Red's demise, and while excessively accessible, marks a continued distancing from that band's signature sound. Prophet still bears the mark of a roots songwriter, favoring earthy instrumentation, pedal steel adornments and a sandpapery voice that can scratch deep 'neath a graveled ground; but Age of Miracles clandestinely adds some soul, funk, and even elemental hip-hop to the equation. The album's nuggets of perfection healthily overcompensate for the moments that fail to maintain a logical balance, but it's really of little consequence if Prophet occasionally misses the mark. (For the record, the sometimes-clumsy "You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)" and the calamitous "Heavy Duty" stick out as two tracks that are nearly ponderous.) By working incognito, Prophet is allowed the periodic indulgence; when things don't exactly work out for the best, he's picked himself back up by the next track.

Still, Age of Miracles has plenty of soon-to-be-classic ringers to warrant a wholehearted recommendation. The thick Los Lobos groover "Automatic Blues" lumbers forward with a bluesy inebriation. Amid the spittooned reed bellyaches of hornman Ralph Carney, Prophet looks for alternatives to the stifles of modernity: "Well, some things aren't built for fixin' / Make more sense to throw away / The touch of something human / Is what I really crave." The weariness of Bob Dylan is felt in the crystalline strums of the shining title track, a song where wah-wah guitars sigh over one of Prophet's strongest melodies to date. "There's plenty work for everyone / Where two and two add up to one," Prophet intones, attempting to inject optimism into a world of false hopes, "Let's sing this song in unison / In the age of miracles."

One of the album's most indelible marks is its earth-toned production, courtesy of Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart, Frank Black), Craig Schumacher (Richard Buckner) and Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo). The little things are what add up in Age of Miracles: the slow-motion windshield wipe of the strings in the literal "Smallest Man in the World"; the encroaching sense of danger imbedded in the grain of "West Memphis Moon"; the toasty handclapped soul in the simple but effective "You've Got Me Where You Want Me"; and the shivering funk laced with whiplash guitars in the swindler's tale "Monkey in the Middle" all provide unique ingredients to the album's brew of universality.

It wouldn't be improper to label Prophet the John Hiatt of his generation; he has the keen ear to craft timeless, inconspicuous songs and the uncontrollable ability to be simultaneously revered and unknown. If you were to research reviews of his past records, each would probably assert that this is the record to finally push Prophet into the limelight. I would say that again here, but at this point, who cares if that will ever evolve into a self-fulfilling prophecy; for now, just listen.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.