Paul Thorn

Paul Thorn
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The first thing you notice is the voice, which is a good thing because a singer needs a distinctive voice. And this voice sounds like someone who has walked a long, hot, span over a dusty, Mississippi country road. By turns, soulful, raw, melancholy, brazen, funky, circumspect, serene, brooding and mutinous, the voice expresses the range of human emotions from forlorn grimness to incandescent optimism. And after listening repeatedly, you realize it is not only the voice of a poet, but also of some kind of merciful prophet, a summation entirely justified because those who have followed the career of Paul Thorn believe he is both. His newest CD is A LONG WAY FROM TUPELO, a collection of songs which once again illustrates Thorn’s versatility and authentic connection to the music of the Mississippi heartland: blues, country, gospel, rhythm and blues, and rock n’ roll. Given his background, maybe Thorn just can’t help it, but he excels as a musical storyteller. His songs are a conduit for that gritty part of the South where beleaguered wisdom is as likely from the bottom of a bottle of Johnny Walker Red as it is from the pulpit of an old country church- minus the steeple, of course, which was blown down by the skirts of a tornado last spring. And his latest CD is no exception. From “Everybody Wishes”, an ode to the complexities of finding the right one, to “I’m Still Here” an anthem to human endurance, to “What Have You Done To Lift Somebody Up”, a rousing gospel number, challenging the listener to step outside his or her own life and simply help someone, to the softly beautiful, “When the Long Road Ends,” with its Appalachian undertones, asking the listener to contemplate what he or she has done with life. Of his new CD, Thorn simply says, “I'm a little older now, and all the songs are about what's going on in my life. I'm 43 years old, and it's about what's going on in Paul Thorn's life at 43, pretty much.” Prophets are called and poets are born and so it should be no surprise to learn that Paul Thorn is from Tupelo MS, the same musically-rich-drenched region which gave us Elvis. The son of a Pentecostal Preacher, Thorn grew up shaking his leg and tambourine, singing in his father’s revivals. In fact, Thorn’s first paying gig was at a revival service with his father when everybody came around and put money in his tambourine. “After the service, there was a little girl, also about three years old, who I had a crush on. I stuffed the money I got all down in my pockets. After the service we sat around the back of the church and I bought her a Coke with the money I’d earned. That was my first paying gig, and I guess my first date.” Eventually, Thorn developed other interests. Due to the influence of his Uncle Merle, himself a professional boxer, Thorn took up the art of fisticuffs. He climbed the amateur and professional ranks long enough to climb into the ring in 1987 in a nationally televised fight against three time world champion, Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran. “I didn’t win the fight, but few did against Duran.” Yet, music was Thorn’s ultimate passion. He had picked up the guitar as a child and even began writing what he describes as “cheesy love songs”. But the self-described cheesy love songs were the spark that eventually kindled his musical career. It was at a family gathering when Thorn was 17 that he ran into a first cousin who, of all things, was a keyboardist for the group, Parliament Funkadelic. Thorn played a couple of songs for the cousin who recognized Thorn’s natural talent. In turn, the cousin introduced Thorn to veteran songwriter, Billy Maddox, who also realized not only Thorn’s innate musical and undeveloped ability, but the teenager’s voice. It didn’t hurt that for his part, Thorn had taken note of the differing musical styles in the Tupelo region, particularly black gospel which he frequently heard up close and personal. For twelve years, Thorn worked days and pursued his passion by night, often playing in local nightspots until he was discovered by Miles Copeland. Thorn recorded his first CD, HAMMER AND NAIL, for A & M records, then recorded AINT LOVE STRANGE for Copeland’s Ark 21 label. A couple of years after AIN'T LOVE STRANGE, Thorn changed labels and musical gears and recorded the critically acclaimed, MISSION TEMPLE FIREWORKS STAND, a quirky collection of songs about people on the byways of the backwater South. The title comes from Thorn’s childhood. “Growing up a Pentecostal Preacher’s son, I went to a lot of tent revivals. In Mississippi, they use the same kind of tent to sell fireworks. It’s all about big business vs. the real thing.” In 2005, Thorn followed up with ARE YOU WITH ME, 12 songs about love gone wrong and right. It was around this time that Paul began an association with current manager Bob Brown. Bob immediately brought Paul to Monterey Penninusla Artists, now Paradigm and has become a vital, productive mentor and friend. While listening to Thorn is good, it is only by seeing him perform live that you gain an appreciation for the man’s ample talents. He is a superb entertainer, fronting a band of musical veterans who know what to do. And in between songs, he weaves stories, mostly funny ones about himself, or people he’s known, about old girlfriends and things that happened when he was a kid. And he talks to you as if you were an old buddy, the two of you sitting in the back of a 69 Dodge pickup, drinking beer on a dark, sultry Mississippi night. But that’s no accident either. Thorn is one of the hardest working people in the business, a hardcore veteran of the road. Before he became the main attraction, Thorn opened for some of the most established acts in the business, including Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Sting, John Hiatt, Robert Cray, Marinanne Faithfull and John Prine. His tours are heavy and hectic which includes playing over 200 dates a year, mainly in venues in the United States and Canada. Thorn is a genuine Southern paradox, a bona fide tough guy with a feeling for the social fugitive. Behind Thorn’s songs simmer an old fashioned religious sensibility: that we really are accountable for how we treat people, the old and the odd, the offbeat, the stranger and the strange. In his songs, there is this demented optimism that says that each life still counts. And it is a message that is important for Thorn to impart to his listeners. If Merle Haggard is the poet of the common man, Thorn is the poet of the unheard, those commonplace and forgotten people who have been left behind in the Modern South, with its whoring rush to score its share of riches from the suzerainties of Wall Street. Thorn is the real deal, never having broke bad with the people he sings about. Thorn doesn’t vacillate when he talks about what he wants his songs to do for people. “When folks hear my music or see my show, I want them to walk away with a healthy dose of joy. Most organized religion is like a steel hammer that’s used to beat us down and make us feel perpetually guilty and unworthy. I’m not about that. I want to lift somebody up and set them free.” In the deepest meaning of the word, a prophet is not so much a seer, or a fortune teller, but a truth teller. And it is because Thorn is able to tell his truths in an entertaining and accessible and poetic way, that he has developed a legion of hard-core fans all over the country. It is the voice that first attracts them, but by the end, it is the person who holds them. He might not admit it, but Paul Thorn’s musical career is nothing short than a continuation of his childhood, where he sang and entertained in his father’s revivals. But this time, it’s different, of course. Because in Paul Thorn’s world, the only price of admission is the price of the ticket and the hope that you will feel a little encouraged to reach out a hand to someone, or that you will feel a little better, a littler freer, than when you first walked in. Or as he sings in When the Long Road Ends, When the long road ends, We will rest for a while, I’ll hold your hand and We’ll share a smile Then we’ll both look back Over where we’ve been We will have no regrets; When the long Road Ends. Spoken like a true poet and prophet. No matter what the down home preachers say.
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02/14/2008 - Thorn: Cautiously optimistic, with good reason  - Read More
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02/01/2007 - Paul Thorn Q&A - Read More
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Average Rating : 5              Total Reviews: 7

Paul Thorn  02/05/2013            
Music Maverick
Great entertainer, singer and songwriter. Glad he hasn't strayed to far from his original sound. Kepping it real.
Paul Thorn  09/22/2006            
Hands down Paul Thorn is the most amazing songwriter out there. Seeing him live just doesn't get any better.
Paul Thorn  08/04/2005            
DK stepthenville
all you need to do is listen to mood rings and you be hook that song is bad ass and wade bowen does a pretty good job of singing it.
Paul Thorn  07/04/2005            
jack wilson
awesome. buy two. one for home and one for the car
Paul Thorn  07/03/2005            
I have seen this Artist Live In Austin. Heard about him from My Step Dad. Talented Painter of Music and Canvas
Paul Thorn  12/15/2004            
Although a long way from his solo acoustic offerings this album is a great addition to my collection of Paul Thorn music. His song writing is as always superb. His ability to put things into words that sound like your having a conversation with him is unbelievable. I highly recommend this album and also any live perfomance you may have the chance to attend.
Paul Thorn  09/29/2004            
Never ones to shy away from the tough to define, on their new project, "Are You With Me?" Thorn & Maddox tackle the more intimate dealings of the heart with as much skill and clarity as they do immortalizing Jehovah's Witness strippers and shooting notorious trailer park pink flamingos. Flawless production, smooth vocals (and even chicks and horns) take the listener into matters of the heart - love lost, love won, love learned. I'm not sure but that this one won't end up on my 'music I'd take if stranded on a desert island' list.
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