Paul Thorn – A Long Way from Tupelo (2008)

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Start with “I’m Still Here,” a wicked but fun fable of survival featuring Huey Lewis on harmonica. Then there’s “Everybody Wishes,” with its knowing rumination on kissing the wrong one goodbye.

Thorn’s frank sense of longing on both “A Woman To Love” and “Starvin’ for Your Kisses” — which like “I’m Still Here” (praise the Lord!) feature a soaring female chorus straight out of the Skynyrd playbook — balance Thorn’s hard-eyed realism on both the slow-turning mid-tempo number “Burnin’ Blue” and a lap-steel shuffle like the Lyle Lovett-ish “What Have You Done To Lift Somebody Up.”

Somehow, though, this is already the criminally underappreciated Thorn’s fifth album
— and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if “A Long Way” ended up as the capstone on a period of wrong-headed ambivalence from the buying public. Any lesser artist, by now, might have considered giving it all up for a return to, say, the factory.

But the very label this thing is on speaks to the kind of hard-scrabble rural stick-to-it-iveness that makes Thorn’s stuff resonate: It’s called “Perpetual Obscurity.”

Not anymore. Thorn, a simple yet disarming yarn-spinner in the style of the remarkable Mississippi writer Larry Brown, is finally finding long-awaited wider notice through this triumphal record.

“A Long Way from Tupelo” made its debut at No. 7 on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart, No. 28 on the Independent albums chart and on the Top 200 albums chart — and that was before Thorn appears on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, a date set for March 19.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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