Provocative roots-rock musician Chuck Prophet is known for his deft songwriting, powerful guitar-playing, trademark vocals and high-energy live shows.
Prophet describes his recent release, “Temple Beautiful,” as an album “made in San Francisco, by San Franciscans about San Francisco.” Prophet, his band the Mission Express and a string quartet will perform the album at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 29, at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St., in Winters.
Roots-rock, post-punk sensibility … and a string quartet?
Yes. And it works.
“At one point, we were thinking of doing a musical,” Prophet said. “Like with costumes and a real production. Imagine the players decked out as the characters? Pre-steroid era hero Willie Mays, martyr for gay rights … Harvey Milk, Laffing Sal, Jim Jones, Carol Doda, Emperor Norton … and more.
“But you know, that started to look a little daunting. And we didn’t want our grandiosity to turn on us. Again. So we settled for a string section.”
A few tracks on “Temple Beautiful” (the dreamily elegiac “Museum of Broken Hearts,” for example) originally included strings; this show expands that role.
Prophet worked with Brad Jones, who co-produced the album and serves as conductor, to rearrange the music.
“We thought, well, maybe we’ll just re-imagine (‘Temple Beautiful’) with a string section, and just get the rock and roll guitars down, bring the strings up, and … people would be able to hear the songs in a different way.”
The Temple Beautiful with Strings show debuted in November. This summer, Prophet is taking the show on the road, including Sunday’s show at The Palms.
While Prophet hasn’t jumped in the strings direction before, he is a restlessly adventurous musician who dives into genres as varied as alt rock, jangly swamp pop, revved up soul and punk-infused blues and surfaces with palpably evocative songs. While much of his catalogue draws on styles of previous decades — a certain angularity is reminiscent of both The Kinks and early Elvis Costello, for example — Prophet’s music avoids coming off as retro or derivative and instead feels fresh, more than a little edgy, and fundamentally exciting.
This sense of newness and discovery is all the more remarkable given that Prophet has been playing professionally for 30 years. After guitar-slinging in Green on Red in the 1980s and early ’90s and in addition to his countless cross-genre collaborations, Prophet has released 12 acclaimed solo albums since 1990.
Prophet’s stage presence is quite dynamic, with Prophet leaning into and rearing back during guitar solos and nimbly switching between two vocal mics (one of which creates a fuzzed bullhorn effect). From the propulsive rock of “Sonny Liston’s Blues” to laid-back “Summertime Thing,” and the layered pop noir of “Doubter Out of Jesus” to the slyly playful “You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp),” an enthusiastic immediacy flows through Prophet’s music to his listeners and somehow creates the euphoric sense of being part of an underground scene that’s about to break through.
At Sunday’s show, Prophet will perform “Temple Beautiful” in its entirety. He will be joined by his four-piece rock band The Mission Express, a string quartet with Brad Jones conducting.
Tickets are $20 and are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if not sold out. For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and chuckprophet.com.