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I’m Going to Hell; Paul Thorn Told Me So

thorn ftc-084by Holley Dey

He held up a tin lunchbox, the kind that Opie of Mayberry would have carried to school, and proudly pointed to a design in the top left hand corner.  “That’s me in a kiddie pool with Jesus,” he said, “and I’m surrounded by a group of beautiful ladies in heaven.” “See the blonde?  That’s my wife and she’s encouraging me to be with all these other ladies, too.  That’s my idea of heaven.”

“Now see this group of people here,” and he pointed to a cartoon at the bottom left hand corner of the box, “they’re in hell.” “They didn’t buy any Paul Thorn products.  You don’t want to go to hell, do you?”

Hell no, but I’m afraid that an early exit past an unstaffed merchandise table may have sealed my fate.  The flames, they’re licking at my heels.

Last week’s Paul Thorn show in Fairfield was my first introduction to the southern rocker.  Paul has a fit, almost chiseled appearance, and his facial expression can run stern, as you might expect from a man who went six rounds in the ring with Roberto Duran.  When the former boxer took the stage, he was all business, moving directly into a compact set of rock songs, each prefaced by a brief story that was delivered in a voice tinged with Mississippi mud and with a wry sense of humor.

It’s the stories, both spoken and sung, that I’ll remember.  There is surprising insight and delightful irony in Thorn’s songwriting.  He writes about his own life, and about situations common to many lives behind closed doors.  Ever had Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family?  You may appreciate the song “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love”.  Been married awhile? “I Guess I’ll Just Stay Married” is a man’s lament.  Comparing his own situation to that of the family bulldog, the husband explains, “…he’s on a short leash just like me; he goes through life with hungry eyes, watching bitches go by.”

The songs are melodic; the lyrics clever, and the delivery deadpan.  Thorn has a solid voice, deep and strong within his range, full of grit and character.  His backing band – Bill Hinds on guitar, Michael Graham on keys, Ralph Friedrichsen on bass, and drummer Jeffrey Perkins – provides easy, well practiced support.  The fact that the band members are individually featured on the bandleader’s official website tells me something important about Paul Thorn.

Thorn’s 2010 album Pimps and Preachers topped the Americana charts for three weeks, breaking into the Billboard top 100.  The title track is autobiographical; Paul’s father is a Pentecostal minister.  For a time, his uncle was a pimp.  Thorn credits both men for teaching him that “You can stand there and do nothing, but if you want to go far, don’t try to please everybody and be proud of who you are.”  Can I get an amen?

His 2012 effort, What the Hell is Goin’ On, is an album of reinterpreted cover songs.  The title track was written by rock/blues master Elvin Bishop.  Thorn and band rock out on a song that decries a crazy world where reports of violence have become commonplace, where airplanes fly into buildings, where people are connected, yet strangely disconnected.  Listen to the track below, then grab a FREE download courtesy of Paul Thorn via his website here.

The Fairfield audience laughed and smiled throughout the set.  I saw head bobbin’ goin’ on.  Thorn had fun, too.  When The Beehive Queen, Christine Ohlman, joined him on stage for a performance of “Jukin'”, the joy was clear on both performers’ faces and smiles rained continuously.  A solid show enjoyed on both sides of the stage in an intimate venue, it’s hard to ask for more.  Well, maybe just one more thing – I mean I did download a song.  Hell, shouldn’t that keep the devil at bay?

thorn ftc-143 Paul Thorn and Christine Ohlman

thorn ftc-117

thorn ftc-183 Paul Thorn, Christine Ohlman and Ralph Friedrichsen

thorn ftc-127 Paul Thorn band at work

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nicely done! You have surely earned your ticket out of hell by downloading that song. Sounds like a really fun night. Great photos, too. As i said, well done!!

    March 24, 2013
    • ontapblog #

      Thank you, Louise. One thing that I didn’t mention above is that Paul is an artist as well as a musician. He drew the cartoons that I describe on the lunchbox above; it’s detailed work! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      March 24, 2013
  2. I’ve been a fan of Paul Thorn since I purchased his Mission Temple Fireworks Show album about 5 years ago. I learned about him on the WLSO podcast by Uncle Shag. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to see him play live yet. Follow him on Facebook, he posts very short home videos of himself on the road, most of which are created in his hotel room. The video subject is usually something Paul is dealing with in his everyday life that can relate to most of us and are usually quite funny. I haven’t purchased Paul’s new album yet. I’m still deciding if I like an album of all covers or not, but I haven’t’ given up yet. The album is on Spotify, so anyone wanting to listen can hear the full album there.

    March 25, 2013
    • ontapblog #

      Thanks for the info, Tish! I’ll be looking for those videos! Paul’s 2010 album, “Pimps and Preachers”, is his own original music. I plan on picking up that one. It’s very good music, and I hope to go to heaven.

      March 25, 2013

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