The Spot returned, Sept. 8, for a cd release party for Randall Bramblett. We ended our summer with the Sunday Exchange, August 13, 129 Exchange St., Aberdeen.
Sultry summer evenings call for celebration in our communities. An open space, with plenty of shade is made to order for a collaboration between the Town of Aberdeen, and their local music purveyor, the Rooster’s Wife. The potential for a thriving arts and entertainment district created the opportunity to bring outdoor concerts back downtown. The Sunday Exchange is intended to build community through the exchange of ideas, art and entertainment. The three concert series, the Sunday Exchange draws to a close August 13 with Paul Thorn and his full band. The concerts are offered at no charge to the public and begin at 6:46pm. Rain site is the Poplar Knight Spot, 114 Knight Street.
Tupelo, Mississippi’s Paul Thorn was a prizefighter and skydiver before becoming a rootsy singer/songwriter. As a boxer Thorn once fought against Roberto Duran. After retiring from the ring, he embraced music, continuing to pay the rent with a day job, until music entrepreneur and manager Miles Copeland heard him play a show in a Tupelo pizzeria. Copeland signed him to A&M. His debut album, Hammer and Nail, was issued in 1997. This tour celebrates twenty years on the road. As a musician he has toured and collaborated with Sting, Paul Carrack, Joe Diffie, Tanya Tucker, Ronnie Milsap, and Carole King, to name a scant few.
Thorn tells stories that were mostly inspired by his own life. He writes with the purpose of making people feel good. Thorn’s earlier catalog is cherished by his many fans thanks to his down-home perspective, vivid-yet-plainspoken language and colorful characters. It helps that Thorn is a colorful and distinctly Southern personality himself. He was raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the land of cotton and catfish. And churches.
“My father was a preacher, so I went with him to churches that white people attended and churches that black people attended,” Thorn says. “The white people sang gospel like it was country music, and the black people sang it like it was rhythm and blues. But both black and white people attended my father’s church, and that’s how I learned to sing mixing those styles.”
A formidable guitarist, Thorn decided to showcase his chops and the rock & roll side of his roots music on the celebrated Mission Temple Fire Works Stand in 2002. His took on the weighty subject of love for 2004’s Are You with Me?, using a more stripped-down style of production and R&B-based grooves to illustrate his material.
Thorn took a four-year break from recording, though he still gigged, abundantly, in the United States and Europe. When he did return, on 2008’s A Long Way from Tupelo, he’d melded all of his previous explorations holistically into a resonant Americana with his gritty, expressive, soulful voice atop it all. In 2010 he released the humorously yet poignantly titled Pimps and Preachers on his own Perpetual Obscurity label, and followed it in 2012 with his first all-covers collection, What the Hell Is Goin’ On?; the album featured Thorn’s versions of tunes by Rick Danko, Allen Toussaint, Donnie Fritts, Lindsey Buckingham, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and others. Thorn returned with a strong album of originals, Too Blessed to Be Stressed, in 2014.
It helps that his big vocal hooks are reinforced by the sound of Thorn’s flexible and dynamic band, as they have been doing for years in concert. During their two decades in the club, theater and festival trenches, the four-piece and their frontman have garnered a reputation for shows that ricochet from humor to poignancy to knock-out rock ‘n’ roll. “These guys really bring my songs to life,” says Thorn. “A lot of albums sound like they’re made by a singer with bored studio musicians. My albums sound they’re played by a real blood-and-guts band because that’s what we are. And when we get up on stage, people hear and see that.” Paul and the band will issue a gospel record in 2018, featuring the McCrary Sister and the Blind Boys of Alabama. The Paul Thorn tour continues. Don’t miss the Aberdeen stop.