Download: Paul Thorn – NoiseTrade Sampler (2012)

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A new NoiseTrade compilation, available to download now, gives the uninitiated an opportunity to sample songs from three Paul Thorn albums — for free.

Who’s Paul Thorn, you say? Discovered by Miles Copeland, brother of Police drummer Stewart Copeland, in the tiny upstate Mississippi town of Tupelo, he’s a guy with a personal narrative more convoluted than his own storytelling — and the phrase-turning genius to convey all of that complexity. Like fireman-turned-writer Larry Brown, from nearby Oxford, but with an ass-kicking backing band.

This new four-song EP includes “You’re Not the Only One,” originally part of Pimps and Preachers, which topped the Americana charts for three weeks back in 2010. Also featured is the title track from Thorn’s 2002 release Mission Temple Fireworks Stand. Meanwhile, fans of Thorn’s terrific newly released collection of favorite cover songs called What the Hell is Goin’ On?, will find Wild Bill Emerson’s “Bull Mountain Ridge” and the Elvin Bishop-penned title song.

“Mission Temple Fireworks Stand” is a tent-shaking gospel rave up, complete with a curious tale of backwoods salvation, a propulsive hand-clapped cadence, and a bourbon tabernacle choir bringing up the rear. “You’re Not the Only One” settles into a more straight-forward country-rock groove, but the specificity of Thorn’s lyrics — not to mention a ruminative barrelhouse piano — gives this song its own special heft. “Bill Mountain Bridge” deftly recalls Thorn’s lesser-known, but still finely detailed 2008 release A Long Way from Tupelo. You’ll also hear the underrated blues-rock legend Bishop stopping by for a note-perfect guest appearance on “What the Hell is Goin’ On?”

Of course, pretenders to the saloon-song aesthetic, even guys from Mississippi, have long been shamed by the lives Thorn once led. The singer’s resume is its own self-perpetuating lyric: He’s the son of a Pentecostal preacher (that was him, performing at age 3 during his father’s tent revivals), a former professional boxer (that was him, going 7 rounds with Roberto Duran), and a one-time factory worker. The blues would have to make this guy up, if he didn’t already exist, right?

This NoiseTrade sampler works as a handy roadmap into both Thorn’s history, and his work — as it quickly evolves into a thickly battered synthesis of down-home soul, greasy guitar riffs, passages from a discarded back-woods hymnal and even some Bruce Springsteen — if the Boss was hopelessly lost on some farm road. Thorn then stirs in some rootsy, countrified rock, and a goodly amount of front-porch bullshitting.

If you haven’t heard him yet, start here.

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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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