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Chuck Prophet profits from songwriting frenzy


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Chuck Prophet channels Alex Chilton on his newest CD, Soap and Water

By Eric R. Danton

The Hartford Courant

Chuck Prophet recalls the first time he met Alex Chilton, the enigmatic singer and guitarist formerly of the Box Tops and Big Star. It was 1986, and Chilton was sharing a bill with Prophet's then-band Green On Red.

"I can remember the '72 Buick he pulled into the parking lot with. He put his amp on stage and took his shirt off and put it in the back of his amp and pulled his gig shirt out and clicked his heels four times, and bang! He was in," Prophet says. "I just thought he was it. I don't know who my heroes were at the time, but at that moment, it was Alex. I wanted to be Alex. He was the coolest."

More than 20 years later, Chilton's influence has bubbled to the surface in a big way on Prophet's latest solo release, "Soap and Water" (Yep Roc), which showcases Prophet's considerable skills as a singer and songwriter, with coloring from years of listening to Chilton's soulful power-pop tunes.

"Alex is a really great guitarist, and he's also a great blues singer, R&B singer, in the same way that, say, Mose Allison is one of my favorite blues singers," Prophet says. "He doesn't sound like he's trying to sing; he just sings. And beyond everything, he's cool."

The same description applies to Prophet, who has wandered through solo albums, writing projects and addiction recovery in the course of his 20-year solo career, which gives his songs an affable, lived-in feel. Yet the making of "Soap and Water" was by no means assured: Prophet was ready for a break, finishing a grueling tour and getting dropped from his deal with New West Records.

"I spent a year goofing off and trying to do other things, thinking maybe I wasn't going to make another record," he says.

But a sudden songwriting jag changed his mind, and he soon found himself with 35 "card-carrying" songs to winnow into a record.

"I caught this inspirational virus, and I felt like I was interested in writing an album, and it started coming together," he says. "It's 12 songs, about $12, which breaks down to about $1 a song, and I can guarantee everybody that by the time I was finished wrestling these songs to the ground, there was blood on the ground. So it's a great deal."

Chuck Prophet, with the Believers and Burning Rivers, 9 p.m. Friday at the Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave N.W., Seattle. Tickets: $12 at www.ticketweb.com or 866-468-7623. Information: 206-789-3599

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