By Sarah Spencer
I must admit, I may be a little biased when it comes to reviewing this concert. Blues, alternative country singer/songwriter and folk artist Paul Thorn has the ability of putting voodoo love spells on women, both young and old, and I have fallen victim to his charms. With that being said, the concert was the best I’ve ever been to in my entire life and I am determined to see him again as soon as possible. Texas in July, here I come! Excuse me, I digress.
The mild January night began at Little Rock’s The Revolution Music Room with me meeting up with a girlfriend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in over three years. A Paul Thorn concert would be perfect to mark the auspicious occasion. She had never heard of him before, which was not surprising – most haven’t, but I had seen him in concert once prior and I knew it would be an unforgettable show. I call him a blues/alt-country artist but it’s hard to describe Paul Thorn’s music accurately. Known for his sometimes amusing, always entertaining stories woven between and throughout songs, his music has elements of many genres including rock, soul, funk, gospel and R&B.
For an artist you’ve probably never heard of, he has had a long successful career working with musical giants like Sting, Bonnie Raitt, John Prine and Huey Lewis just to name a few. Many artists, such as Tanya Tucker, Toby Keith and Sawyer Brown, have covered his songs. But, no one sounds like Paul. He has one distinctive set of vocal chords while his Mississippian accent oozes masculine sexuality and roughness. He makes me want to hang from his lips. But he don’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. When he came out to the stage, Mandy asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me he was so hot?” However, his enticing good looks and alluring voice are only part of his appeal. A gifted songwriter and rhythm guitarist, he is backed up by an exceptionally talented band consisting of Billy Maddox, songwriter/producer, Bill Hinds on acoustic, electric and slide guitars as well as background vocals, Doug Kahan on bass guitar and background vocals, Michael Graham, aka Dr. Love, on keys and last, but certainly not least, Jeffery Perkins on drums.
Paul opened the set with “A Long Way From Tupelo,” from his most recent and most commercially successful album of the same name, which is one of his more popular songs about a tongue-in-cheek traveling salesman and the temptations faced on the road. He dedicated his song, “Mood Ring” to a lady in the audience, Kate Robinson who had requested it before the show. After he thanked his opening artists Trey Hawkins and Aaron Murphy, he told a cute little story about how his six-year-old daughter, affectionately known as Pop Tart, is already learning how to be a deceptive female by recently hiding her pork chops with her french fries so she could have dessert without finishing her meal.
After he performed his theme song, “Hammer and Nail,” he changed from an electric guitar to acoustic and his band left the stage. His stage presence was extremely engaging and the crowd was attentive. He was appreciative of the few hundred fans who came out to support him and his band. He said he didn’t expect such a big crowd for a Wednesday night.
After a few intimate songs alone, he switched back to electric and his band once again mounted the stage to accompany Paul for the last dozen songs. One of his more memorable performances of the night was a poignant tune inspired by his mama, entitled “That’s Life”, which will be coming out on his next album, “Pimps and Preachers”. Of course, it made us all think of our own mamas and had I not been having such a good time, I may of shed a tear. Paul Thorn is undeniably a true entertainer who lives and feels his music but, more importantly he has the gift of allowing the audience to live and feel it as well.