Originally issued in the U.K. seven years ago on a tiny label while Prophet was on hiatus from the now-defunct Green On Red, Brother Aldo quickly disappeared despite receiving some outstanding reviews in the British press. But Velvel has wisely picked up the rights and issued it for the first time domestically, making it a lot easier for Americans to see what the fuss was about.
For those not aware, Prophet is a San Francisco singer-songwriter who writes amazing songs in the finest world-weary, street-troubadour tradition, combining his storytelling with stinging guitar licks lifted from the Richard Thompson/Robbie Robertson school and turning them into his own. On Brother Aldo, this is perhaps best exemplified on “Scarecrow”, with Prophet’s guitar telling as much of the chilling story as his words and vocals do.
Other highlights on this no-dud album include the tearful ballad “Rage And Storm”, the Fairport Convention-influenced “Look Both Ways” (co-written with Steve Wynn and Chris Cacavas), and the swamped-out, Tom Petty-esque “Say It Ain’t So”. Through it all, Stephanie Finch, who possesses an angel-like voice with a break-your-heart quality as rich as that of Emmylou Harris or Linda Thompson, adds beautiful harmonies as well as accordion.
Brother Aldo, like Prophet’s terrific 1997 release Homemade Blood, is a minor masterpiece that won’t necessarily change your life. But that’s not the point. This is rock ‘n’ roll of a classic nature, but with a unique edge that you don’t come across very often in today’s mainstream. If that matters to you, Brother Aldo is something you shouldn’t miss.