Paul Thorn’s new album Too Blessed To Be Stressed stakes out new territory for the popular roots-rock songwriter and performer. “In the past, I’ve told stories that were mostly inspired by my own life,” the former prizefighter and literal son of a preacher man offers. “This time, I’ve written 10 songs that express more universal truths, and I’ve done it with a purpose: to make people feel good.”

Which explains numbers like the acoustic-electric charmer “Rob You of Your Joy,” where Thorn’s warm peaches-and-molasses singing dispenses advice on avoiding the pitfalls of life. The title track borrows its tag from a familiar saying among the members of the African-American Baptist churches Thorn frequented in his childhood. “I’d ask, ‘How you doin’, sister?’ And what I’d often hear back was, ‘I’m too blessed to be stressed.’” In the hands of Thorn and his faithful band, who’ve been together 20 years, the tune applies its own funky balm, interlacing a percolating drum and keyboard rhythm with the slinky guitar lines beneath his playful banter.

Thorn’s trademark humor is abundant throughout the album, which will be released August 19, 2014 on Perpetual Obscurity/Thirty Tigers. “Backslide on Friday” is a warm-spirited poke at personal foibles. “I promised myself not to write about me, but I did on ‘Backslide,’” Thorn relates. The chipper pop tune is a confession about procrastination, sweetened by Bill Hinds’ slide guitar and Thorn’s gently arching melody. “But,” Thorn protests, “I know I’m not the only one who says he’s gonna diet and just eat Blue Bell vanilla ice cream on Sundays, and then ends up eating it every day!”

“Mediocrity Is King” takes a wider swipe, at our culture’s hyper-drive addiction to celebrity artifice and rampant consumerism. But like “Everything Is Gonna Be All Right,” a rocking celebration of the simple joys of life, it’s done with Thorn’s unflagging belief in the inherent goodness of the human heart.

Cris Jacobs

Singer-songwriter Cris Jacobs has explored the outer realms of bluegrass, folk, funk, country, blues, soul, and rock with stylistic reverence, adventurous alchemy, and emotional sincerity. Throughout his musical travels he’s amassed a dedicated fanbase engaged by the warmth and high quality of his lived-in songs.

“I’ve always just accepted and respected that evolution is part of the creative process,” the Baltimore, Maryland-based artist explains. “But I’ve made sure that throughout my work, I’ve always been honest. That’s the end goal, writing music that is meaningful to me.”

Cris Jacobs began his career fronting the acclaimed band and award-winning jam band, The Bridge. The sextet released four albums in 10 years, and averaged 200 shows a year. When the band went on permanent hiatus, Cris continued on following the music. In 2012, he issued his solo debut, Songs For Cats And Dogs, a masterful album featuring poignant songwriting, honey and whiskey soaked vocals, burly riffs, dazzling guitar playing, and bucolic pedal steel guitar. Jacobs’s solo career was welcomed by fans and media alike, widening his profile as he appeared on television, on NPR’s Mountain Stage sessions, and was personally tapped by Stevie Winwood and Sturgill Simpson for national tours. Currently, Jacobs is readying his sophomore album.

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