Friday, March 27, 2009

Paul Thorn @ The Barns of Wolf Trap

The beauty of satellite radio is that it exposes us to a wider variety of music that we normally an not hear using traditional media sources. One of the first artists we heard on XM Radio X Country was Paul Thorn and his "800 Pound Jesus". This was instant classic in our household and eventually led us to Hammer & Nail, his debut CD and Mission Temple Fireworks Stand. Two great CDs. When Thorn released A Long Way from Tupelo last year, we immediately purchased it, and talking about a CD I can relate to. See Thorn and I are nearly the same age, and this CD expresses his version of a mid life crisis. Its not the standard fare wishing he was younger, but instead a self examination of his life - is he doing the right thing - the Gospel according to Thorn: we are accountable about how we treat other people. The son of a Pentecostal preacher, Thorn knows how to preach; but its not the in your face your a sinner message. Instead its encouragement for listeners to reflect on their own lives. Just listen to "What Have You Done To Lift Somebody Up". But it also seems that Thorn has a bottle of bourbon in his hand at the same time; everyone has their vices.

Thorn is a great storyteller and coming from Mississippi his music reflects blues, gospel, country, R&B, and Sun records classic rock n' roll. Not surprising the later since he was raised in Tupelo - the birthplace of Elvis. He's traveled a long road to his current situation. He learned to play the guitar at an early age and started writing songs almost immediately. He has had some interesting professions before becoming a professional musician; he was a professional boxer for awhile and even boxed Roberto Duran on national television. But eventually some smart people appreciated his talent and he slowly rose through the record label hierarchy.

We normally think of Thorn playing solo with his acoustic guitar, but for this tour, Thorn is traveling with a full band. This gives him a more rock n' roll sound and when you utilize outstanding musicians, you can't go wrong. Where did he find Bill Hinds. Tonight at Wolf Trap - The Barns he started with the full band, opening with "Mood Ring" and then following with songs from A Long Way from Tupelo. The audience sung along with "I'm Still Here", which includes our favorite line: "Father Time is undefeated". They also played the title track, "What Have You Done To Lift Somebody Up" and "Stavin' For Your Kisses". Halfway though, the band left the stage and Thorn played solo for a few songs. Here is when you can really appreciate his unique gritty voice and song writing skills. While he was playing "800 Pound Jesus", the band slowly returned each member joining in when ready. It was a nice touch. After several more songs they finished with a tent revival encore. Thorn called for the audience to rush the stage and eventually hopped down to walk through the crowd. All the while the Paul Thorn Band jammed on. An appropriate ending for a great evening.

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