Chuck Prophet is one of those consummate musicians who help shape the course of popular music but never get their 15 minutes of fame.
He was a guitarist for the 1980s L.A. cowpunk band Green on Red, an act that did more to foreshadow the No Depression movement than Uncle Tupelo. He's written songs for Alejandro Escovedo and Kelly Willis and done session work for Aimee Mann and Jonathan Richman.
He's also managed to release 10 solo albums since 1990. On his latest, storytelling reigns supreme.
Some of Prophet's musical tales are full of heartbreak. "What Can a Mother Do" laments ill-fated children whose lives barrel down wrong tracks right out of the station.
Some reach for hope. "Hot Talk" is a sultry street encounter in which would-be lovers mull whether life's cup is half full or half empty under a star-filled sky.
Some just tell it like it is. "American Man" is an anthem to the alluring darkness of masculinity's myths. "American man, three times your size, with blood on my lips and milk in my eyes," sings Prophet.
The music is pure roots-rock, framed in steady beats that suggest Prophet's protagonists will endure.