Music Review: Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express

Chuck Prophet, one-time guitarist with cult country rockers Green On Red, knows and loves his rock'n'roll. Whether he is covering his namesake Chuck Berry's Ramona Says Yes with contrasting embellishment from his wife Stephanie Finch on sighing backing vocals and a lean, mean lead guitar display from James DePrato, or taking a left turn into the bittersweet Byrdsian jangle of Lonely Desolation, playful new wave rocker Jesus Was a Social Drinker or existential roots ballad Barely Exist, he and his righteous band the Mission Express were simultaneously in thrall to and command of their tradition.

Chuck Prophet
Chuck Prophet

ABC2, Glasgow ****

So when Prophet declared in freewheeling song that it’s been a Bad Year for Rock and Roll, you had better believe him. He paid tribute to the fallen heroes of 2016, covering Leonard Cohen’s Iodine and stealing brazenly and lovingly from the late Alan Vega’s band Suicide for the heatseeking rhythmic riff of In The Mausoleum.

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But Prophet and chums were also the revivifying tonic, celebrating the low-slung drawling joys of their great American songbook with the rollicking call-and-response of Temple Beautiful or the brooding, stormy (though not quite as heavy as promised) You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp).

There were a few too many meandering jams in the second half of the set, for all their strung-out place in rock’n’roll, but at least when Prophet indulged, he did so with a sense of humour, delivering an entertaining geek sermon on Wish Me Luck. Not that this charmed and charming performer needs it.