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Paul Thorn tells all

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., October 21, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
To say that Paul Thorn's upbringing colored his music would be a gross understatement. His father was a Pentecostal preacher, and his uncle was a pimp. Thorn referred to them as his two mentors, and that would lead to CDs like the recently released "Pimps and Preachers," not to mention Thorn's colorful life (at least so far as he indicated it was in concert. Where the truth lay, who knew?)

The bottom line was Thorn's Southern-influenced, rootsy rock sounds were triumphant time and again.

Thorn may overplay the Southern affect, but so what? The Tupelo, Miss. native utilized a big drawl particularly in telling his stories.

And he had a lot of them - almost all were on the very funny side. Chances are he has told these same stories time and again night after night, but Thorn has such an engaging, albeit low-key style, that you'd think he was telling them for the very first time.

It was easy to see how Thorn was able to acquire a slew of well put together songs that deals with life's ups and often downs. While Thorn's songs come close to being a bit too cute or on the novelty end, one senses that there's just enough realism to avoid that dreaded moniker of novelty artist.

Thorn, who once upon a time was a professional boxer, told the story, for example, of having a tenant who could not pay her rent. "She took my advice and became a topless stripper on the weekends," Thorn alleged. With acoustic guitar in hand on for a few songs to open the second set, Thorn broke into Joanie The Jehovah's Witness Stripper, a very funny and well-put together song.

Thorn's band provided ample ammunition, particularly guitarist Bill Hines, whose slide playing in particular colored the songs throughout. Al Kooper came up to guest on mandolin on one song, sprinking in his good licks. Thorn and band mixed it up sufficiently between slower to mid-tempo songs to rockers, although a good sound mix always put his voice above the music. Good thing because there's a lot to them words.

Thorn grew far more serious in the closing song after almost two hours over two sets, the encore of That's Life. He dedicated the song to his late mother, who Thorn praised her for being something other than that role. The song contained phrases she said throughout her life. While certainly providing for good songs, good thing for Thorn (and us) that there was more to life than pimps and preachers.