By Al Kaufman
Paul Thorn is a man's man. Back in 1988, he went six bloody rounds with the legendary Roberto Duran. But he is also sensitive enough that he hugged his idol both before the bout and after (when they were both in the emergency room getting stitched back together).
These days, Thorn sticks with his guitar and his voice. It is a voice that is as dusty as the Tupelo streets where he grew up. It is a voice through which you can hear life. It ain't always pretty, but it's well lived.
Thorn's voice falls somewhere in between that of Joe Cocker and Greg Allman, both men that have had more than their share of experiences. But add to that Thorn's background of a son of a Pentecostal preacher, and a whole new source of passion spews forth.
A Long Way from Tupelo peaks with the one-two wallop of "A Woman to Love" and "I'm Still Here," both gospel flavored delights that will make you scream "amen."
But the rest ain't bad either. Thorn effortlessly mixes country, blues and rock with such sincerity that even when he spews platitudes like "What Have You Done to Lift Somebody Up" they don't feel like preachy sermons, just good old front porch music.
Thorn mentions sweet tea more than a few times on this CD, and he has been covered by country artists such as Sawyer Brown and Billy Ray Cyrus. But, to his credit, he has said that the singers that end up writing him the biggest royalty checks are usually the ones that he hates the most. He has also said that he doesn't consider his music country music, it's just music with a good storyline, so it's conducive to country.
What Thorn is, is a storyteller and a poet. He might have a drink or five from time to time, and he could wallop you upside the head if he wanted to, but mostly he wants everyone to love one another and seek joy. Think Johnny Cash. Think Kris Kristofferson (who considers himself a fan). Now think also of Paul Thorn. His songwriting isn't on their level, but his head and his heart are.
Paul Thorn plays the Variety Playhouse on Friday, May 22. 8.30 p.m. $15/$17.50 door.