Black Music Matters Festival

Paul Thorn

Don't Let the Devil Ride – 2018 (Perpetual Obscurity)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Paul Thorn's first gospel album is as authentic as it is inspired. He recorded it on the (secularly) hallowed grounds of Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis, FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. and Preservation Hall in New Orleans. He's also helped by the Blind Boys of Alabama, The McCrary Sisters and other celebrated gospel figures. The music he's created herein is the celebratory variety. It's 'feel good' gospel music sure to inspire you, even if you're an unbeliever.

Thorn may be a white man, but he sings these 14 selections with a gritty, churchy vocal style. He's singing black music, for sure. While many of these songs stomp to a Sunday morning worship groove - the closing "The Get Back" is a perfect example of this approach - the title track is more of a slow burn groove. He also includes a few familiar blues tunes, "Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin' Bed" and "You Got to Move." He even gives us his take on The O'Jays' "Love Train," which - when you get right down to it - is a gospel tune. He preaches its verses and choruses, while backed by an empathetic gospel choir. He also slows it down to a more meditative pace, which distinctly distinguishes his version from its disco era original.

It's obvious Thorn knows and loves this music, which comes through loud and clear from start to finish. He sings of a love train we all would do well to ride.