Chuck Prophet, “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” (2017)

Americana legend Chuck Prophet returns with his 13th solo release, Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, out February 10th, but leaves something to be desired.

Prophet, formerly of the Alt-Country/Neo-Psychedelia group Green on Red, has a history in the scene. “We Got Up and Played” recounts his time touring through less-than-glamorous cities with lyrics like, “When we started out / We fought all the time / Dumb and afraid / And out of our minds / But we got up and played.”

The title track, which may be the strongest on the album, recalls the mysterious tale of Bobby Fuller’s death at the young age of 23. Through jangly guitars, a steady bassline, and foot-stomping drum beat “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” conveys the fragility of life and reminds us to stop and smell the roses.

While Bobby Fuller is home to several phenomenal cuts, it’s also stuffed with filler. Specifically, “Bad Year for Rock and Roll” a tired anthem about loving rock ‘n’ roll but getting too old to go out and see it, and “If I Was Connie Britton” an elementary 12-bar blues with equally simple lyrics that propose an alternative lifestyle where, “everything would go [Prophet’s] way.”

Yet, “Jesus Was a Social Drinker” is the biggest offender, a five-minute slow-burner ripe with utterly corn-ball lyrics, painfully simple chord changes, out of place back-up doo-wops, and a persistent cowbell, easily takes first on 2017’s list of cheesiest.

Finally hitting his stride half-way through the album, Prophet puts all the right ingredients together with his proto-punk tribute to Alan Vega, “In the Mausoleum.” Through juxtaposed crunchy and clean guitar tones, slightly reverberated and yelped vocals, a consistent rhythm section, and a ripping solo remind you why Prophet hasn’t quit yet.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins”, “Your Skin”, “In the Mausoleum (For Alan Vega)”, “Rider or the Train”

FFO: Henry Clay People, The Jayhawks, Limbeck, Bonnie “Prince” Billy

Jay Daniel, Broken Knowz (2016)

Jay Daniel, the Michigan-born electronic musician/drummer/DJ, humbly pays respect to the early Detroit artists that paved the way, and brings something new to the table with his first full length LP, Broken Knowz (Ninja Tune, 2016).

Daniel’s latest release, Broken Knowz is at times many things– a resonant soundscape, a syncopated sojourn, and a cacophony of global percussion working both in and around genre lines. Broken Knowz urges the listener to redefine what house music should be and how it should sound. But it lacks a necessary cohesion.

Raised in Detroit by his mother, the famous house vocalist Naomi Daniel, Jay Daniel was exposed to the world of electronic music at an early age. But not until moving to Maryland with his father did he discover his passion for drumming.

Daniel effortlessly interweaves funk rhythms, diverse driving percussion, clean production, and rich synth tones, into Broken Knowz, with live drums to boot. Yet the album reads more like a compilation of songs, with each track strikingly different from the last. While this does give Daniel leeway to experiment in different forms throughout the record, it also makes it hard to pin down thematically.

“Paradise Valley” evokes a sense of jazz-inspired dreaminess, nursed by modulated Rhodes chords, a subdued bassline, and a simple but persistent rim-tapped clave pattern. “Niiko” brings the percussion to the forefront, with booming low-end bass drum hits and precision timed go-go bells, almost give the feeling of a fire-side ceremonial dance.

Broken Knowz is a solid addition to the ever-expanding, eclectic collection of Detroit house music, this will not be the last we hear of Jay Daniel.

Stand Out Tracks: “Paradise Valley”, “Niiko”, “Squeaky Maya”, “Boolin”, “Yemaya”

FFO: Shigeto, Bibio, Project Pablo, Bonobo