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Chuck Prophet Chuck Prophet
Album: Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins
Label: Yep Roc
Tracks: 13

Certainty in uncertain times is more valued than ever and if there's anything at all that's certain in the Trump-blighted US of A it's that Chuck Prophet will have something to say about it… and that it'll sound bang on the money. Describing this collection of gritty, grizzled street anthems and bar hymns as "California Noir", Chuck has returned to the San Francisco studio in which he cut his first session in the early 1980s and his 64 Stratocaster is plastered all over the record, razor sharp and shining bright.

The songs are drenched in pathos as he recounts everyday tales of love, loss and loads born with steel-eyed stoicism, his music echoing the sentiments with muscular melancholy. Imagine if Chuck had grown up in Kilburn not California, or Ray Davies was from 'Frisco instead of Fortis Green, these two great chroniclers find the electric pulse of the ordinary and put magic in the mundane. In any other hands We Got Up And Played would be just another song about being in a band, but here it speaks of the mundane heroics inherent in just doing your job day in day out. There's similarly empathetic praise to just getting on with it to be found on the romping If I Was Connie Britton and the aspirational Rider Or The Train.

But whether it's the deeply personal (Open Up Your Heart) or the universal (Post-War Cinematic Dead Man Blues), this is the stuff we all relate to. Chuck sums up a collective sadness about the death of David Bowie and others last year in Bad Year For Rock And Roll, mourning the passing of heroes by seeking solace in their legacy and managing to raise a smile as well as a glass to their memory - raw sentiment has rarely sounded so elegant.

Jesus Was a Social Drinker may upset the zealots but it'll thrill the good-time seekers with its gutsy rhythm and spaced-out postscript; while the closing Alex Nieto is an angry protest in tribute to the San Franciscan shot by cops in what many view as unlawful killing.

Just as spirited, the title track is a well-defined rocker that expertly returns Fuller to the spotlight and reminds us of the simple joys of straight up rock and roll played warts and all by master craftsmen. And for all that Chuck invokes the liberal instincts and edgy vibe of California throughout, the record also chimes as readily with the independent minded lone star state of Texas. There's the inescapable Stratocaster of course, straight up and down strumming like Buddy Holly taught us, but also the titular Texan best known for his cover of I Fought the Law (itself written by Sonny Curtis, Holly's replacement in the Crickets) and for dying in mysterious circumstances in Hollywood… which brings us back to California.

Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins is as good a cause to give thanks and praise for as any that I can think of this year.

Nick Churchill