Paul Thorn Band

Paul Thorn took an unexpected detour on the road to recording a follow-up to his most successful release, 2010's Pimps and Preachers. After writing many discs of semi-autobiographical tunes that have drawn comparisons to John Hiatt and John Prine, the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter - hailed as the "Mark Twain of Americana" - decided to do an album of covers. "I wanted to take a break from myself," he reveals, "do something different, and just have fun."

The collection, entitled “What The Hell Is Goin’ On?” finds Thorn putting his own gritty rock stamp on some of his favorite songs. There are some names familiar to Americana fans (Buddy Miller, Ray Wylie Hubbard), some lesser-known (Foy Vance, Wild Bill Emerson) and some surprises. The Buckingham/Nicks tune “Don’t Let Me Down Again” originated on that duo’s debut, not during the Fleetwood Mac era, while the Free song that Thorn chose to cover is an obscure one, “Walk In My Shadow.”

The heavy lifting on the album, however, was done by Thorn and, as usual, his touring band (guitarist Bill Hinds, keyboard player Michael Graham, bassist Ralph Friedrichsen and drummer Jeffrey Perkins). “The guys in this outfit are a tight unit and a well-oiled machine,” Thorn proclaims. “I’ve had the same guys in my band for goin' on 15 years and they are incredible musicians.” Another long-time collaborator is Billy Maddox, who Thorn describes as a “genius in the studio,” and who served as “What The Hell’s” producer. The sense of camaraderie between Thorn, his band and the producer contributes to the disc’s loose, live performances. The lived-in quality is undoubted aided by the fact that Thorn and the band had already played these songs live and honed them into what Thorn calls “crowd-pleasers.”

Thorn has been pleasing crowds for years with his muscular brand of roots music – bluesy, rocking and thoroughly Southern, yet also speaking universal truths. The Tupelo, MS native worked in a furniture factory, jumped out of airplanes, and was professional boxer before sharing his experiences to the world as a singer-songwriter. His last album, Pimps & Preachers, which topped the Americana charts for 3 weeks and broke into the Billboard Top 100, perfectly exemplified the vivid scope of his songwriting but also his family background. While his father is a Church of God Pentecostal minster, his uncle (his father’s brother) spent time as a pimp - and Thorn was influenced by both of these men. Mining these ‘saint and sinner’ scenarios, Thorn crafted a disc that All Music Guide lauded as “a great rock & roll album,” while the Nation labeled it “an incredible find.”

Thorn and his band will be performing both his captivating originals and these favored covers, because, as he states, “there are so many great writers out there whose songs need to be heard.” Thorn also might slip in a new song or two as he already has started writing more songs of his own for the next album.

Cris Jacobs

After 10 years fronting the Baltimore band The Bridge, Cris Jacobs is continuing to show his depth and range as a gifted songwriter and performer by embarking on a solo career.

$49.50

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Paul Thorn Band with Cris Jacobs

Tuesday, October 22 · 8:00 PM at Rams Head On Stage