Chuck Prophet

Chuck Prophet has been cranking out sly, soul-tinged Americana for more than two decades, and he's long overdue for an FM breakthrough. Soap and Water, his ninth solo offering since his days fronting Green on Red, is unlikely to earn him that. The dozen tracks gathered here have hummable hooks and brisk backbeats. But there's always some element that pushes them too far for the Arbitron zombies who run mainstream radio. On "Would You Love Me," it's the creepy keening of a children's choir. On "All Over You," it's a haunting assembly of violins.

Or consider "Something Stupid" (the song, not the cultural circumstance). It's the exact kind of insanely catchy number John Mayer might have crooned to Jessica Simpson for a VH1 special, and which would then wind up topping the charts for the next six years. But Prophet turns the tune into a kind of mini symphony, summoning a wall of sound that includes strings, keyboards, assorted background voices, and his own sinuous work on the Stratocaster. Radio might not want to risk this kind of majesty, but you should.

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Steven Almond

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