Photos and Article by Michael W. Bright
Louisville, KY — Paul Thorn is a story teller. Not just in his songs, which are lyrically somewhere between Randy Newman and John Prine, but in the folksy chats between each song which are charming, unpretentious, and particularly southern in style. If you weren’t already completely drawn into his music, you would get hooked by those endearing stories that might begin with a deadpan, something like, “I hit the jackpot at a yard sale the other day.” Although his birthplace is Wisconsin, he is decidedly a child of Tupelo, Mississippi, which explains both his accent and his relaxed southern temperament.
Scott Miller, another story spinner, opened the evening with an intriguing tour of his cerebral yarns, humorous observations, and personal journeys, many drawn from his latest album, Ladies Auxillary (2017).
If you still needed a reason to believe in Paul Thorn, the Louisville audience ultimately succumbed when he mentioned that one of his personal heroes was hometown legend, Muhammed Ali. Not all that surprising since his resume includes some years as a professional boxer, who at one point fought gamely, but lost, against boxing champ, Roberto Duran.
Thorn can tell most of his stories in under four minutes. His sympathetic take on songs like “Burn Down the Trailer Park,” demonstrated his lyrical humor mixed with the soulful, bluesy, sometimes gospel-flavored approach that drew most of the ticket-holders in the half-filled theater. His 2018 album, Don’t Let the Devil Ride, which peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums Chart, a hefty industry endorsement, was confirmation of his bona-fides for most of his fans.
At several points in his 90 minute set, his words and sparse picking on the Bo Diddley-style box guitar carried the load while the remainder of his touring quintet locked onto his recital. For most of the show however, slide guitarist Chris Simmons, whose resume boasts five years of touring with Leon Russell, would be the main focus when Thorn took a step back.
His lengthy tour continues into November. Dates and more information may be found at http://www.paulthorn.com/tour.