Friday, November 16, 2012 • Doors 7pm • Show 8pm • $20 Flat • All Ages
Paul Thorn took an unexpected detour on the road to recording a follow-up to his most successful release, 2010′s Pimps and Preachers. After writing many discs of semi-autobiographical tunes that have drawn comparisons to John Hiatt and John Prine, the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter – hailed as the “Mark Twain of Americana” – decided to do an album of covers. “I wanted to take a break from myself,” he reveals, “do something different, and just have fun.”
The collection, entitled What The Hell Is Goin’ On? finds Thorn putting his own gritty rock stamp on some of his favorite songs. There are some names familiar to Americana fans (Buddy Miller, Ray Wylie Hubbard), some lesser-known (Foy Vance, Wild Bill Emerson) and some surprises. The Buckingham/Nicks tune Don’t Let Me Down Again originated on that duo’s debut, not during the Fleetwood Mac era, while the Paul Rogers/Free song that Thorn chose to cover is an obscure one, Walk In My Shadow.
The idea for a covers album grew as Thorn encountered tunes that meant something important to him. “I would hear them in the tour van or I’d be at a festival and see someone perform them live,” Thorn says, “and I’d say ‘That’s a great song, I wish I had written it!’”
What The Hell Is Goin’ On? also delivers songs of love and salvation. Vance’s Shed A Little Light and Eli “Paperboy” Reed’s Take My Love With You are emotionally powerful tunes. The latter particularly expresses Thorn’s feelings about being on the road and missing his family back home: “Being a touring musician is a blessing and a curse… and Eli put into words what I feel like sometimes.”
Thorn has been pleasing crowds for years with his muscular brand of roots music – bluesy, rocking and thoroughly Southern, yet also speaking universal truths. The Tupelo, Mississippi native worked in a furniture factory, jumped out of airplanes, and was a professional boxer before sharing his experiences with the world as a singer-songwriter. Pimps and Preachers, which topped the Americana charts for three weeks and broke into the Billboard Top 100, perfectly exemplified the vivid scope of his songwriting and illuminated his family background. While his father is a Church of God Pentecostal minister, his uncle (his father’s brother) spent time as a pimp, and Thorn was influenced by both of these men. Mining these “saint and sinner” scenarios, Thorn crafted a disc that All Music Guide lauded as “a great rock & roll album,” while The Nation labeled it “an incredible find.”
When Thorn and his band hit the road, he’ll be performing both his captivating originals and these favored covers, because, as he says, “there are so many great writers out there whose songs need to be heard.” Thorn also might slip in a new song or two as he already has started writing more songs of his own for the next album.