Paul Thorn’s career was rolling along just fine. He was the Mid-South middleweight boxing champion. He then hit a bump in the road when in Atlantic City, April 14, 1988. He stepped into the ring with former multi-champion and Boxing Hall Of Famer Roberto Duran. Six rounds later a singing career became a viable option.
During the early 1990s he toured constantly, learning his craft. He released his first album in 1997. By 2010 he had gained some commercial success and notoriety, which resulted in his Pimps and Preachers release reaching number 83 on the Billboard Pop Albums Chart.
He may have been born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but at the age of two his family moved to Tupelo, Mississippi, which makes him southern bred. His Church of God Pentecostal minister father and his uncle who worked as a pimp for a while, both influenced his life and ultimately his music.
His first five albums contained original material, which many times moved in an autobiographical direction. His sixth release, What the Hell is Goin On, travels in a different direction as it is an album of covers. While the material may be an eclectic mix, his interpretations remain firmly rooted in his blues/rock/Americana southern approach. He is supported by his backing band of guitarist Bill Hinds, keyboardist Michael Graham, bassist Ralph Friedrichsen, and drummer Jeffrey Perkins who have all been with him for 15 years.
It is an interesting album as the material travels in a number of directions. The album opens with the Buckingham Nicks (pre-Fleetwood Mac) tune “Don’t Let Me Down Again.” It is an organ-driven melodic piece that features his gravelly southern voice. He reached back into rock history again for the cover of a fairly obscure Paul Rogers/Free song “Walk In My Shadow,” which emerges as a fine blues rock fusion piece. Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Snake Farm” moves in a different direction as it is stripped down to its basics and is an ominous song.
The album’s centerpiece is the Elvin Bishop-penned title song. It is a blistering interpretation of the pros and cons of modern technology. Bishop even chips in a tasty guitar solo. The other superior tune is Wild Bill Emerson’s “Bull Mountain Bridge,” which can be best described as ‘the Mafia travels to West Virginia.’ The lyrics are somewhere between amusing and horrific, but they are always interesting and mesmerizing.
What the Hell is Goin On is a fine addition to Paul Thorn’s building legacy. He seems to be having fun recording other people’s material and is able to pass that on to the listener. It is an album worthy of anyone’s music collection.