Paul Thorn turns to top songwriters on 'What The Hell Is Going On?'

For his forthcoming album Paul Thorn, who is certainly no slouch as a songwriter himself, turned to some of his favorite songwriters. The new release, titled What the Hell Is Goin’ On? and due out on Perpetual Obscurity/Thirty Tigers on May 8, boasts writers both well-known and less well-known: Lindsey Buckingham, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Allen Toussaint, Buddy & Julie Miller, Elvin Bishop, Rick Danko of the Band, Paul Rodgers and the rest of the band Free, Donnie Fritts and Billy Lawson, Wild Bill Emerson, Foy Vance, Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed, and the trio of Big Al Anderson, Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin.
 
Thorn has developed a deep set of musical influences. But these influences didn’t come about until he was fully grown and out of the house. His father was a Pentecostal preacher, and there was only one kind of music heard in the Thorn home: gospel.
 
“Gospel music was everything in our household,” he says, “My sisters played piano, my dad played guitar and my mom played accordion. I started off playing the drums — on a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket with a wooden spoon — and later picked up the guitar. Being from Tupelo, I went to the same music school that Elvis Presley attended. By that, I mean that our family visited the white Pentecostal churches and the black Pentecostal churches, and the music at both was awesome. The white folks sang in a country & Western style and the black folks had a more rhythm & blues approach.”
 
Paul would not have likely chanced upon a song recorded by The Band, Free or Buckingham-Nicks while growing up. “You see, we were not allowed to buy or listen to secular music, although I kept two records in my closet that I would sneak and listen to when my parents were gone,” he explains, citing the smuggled titles: Huey Lewis & the News’ Picture This and Elton John’s Greatest Hits. “The religious authorities of that time told us that if you play a rock ’n’ roll record backwards there were hidden satanic instructions for all of Lucifer’s followers. I tried it and the only words I could make out sounded like ‘eat your laundry on Tuesday.’ I started listening to and absorbing worldly music after I left home at the age of 18.”
 
At 18, Thorn had a lot of catching up to do, and immersed himself in the worlds of rock ’n’ roll, R&B, blues and country. What the Hell Is Going On? is a microcosm of his journey.
 
Among the album’s 12 tracks, Elvin Bishop sits in on guitar on the title track he wrote, while Delbert McClinton lends vocals to Wild Bill Emerson’s “Bull Mountain Bridge.” Thorn captures the Texas swamp feel of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Snake Farm” and makes Southern rock anthems of Buckingham-Nicks’ “Don’t Let Me Down Again” and Free’s “Walk in My Shadow.” He redefines The Band’s “Small Town Talk,” penned by Rick Danko, while paying homage to a venerable R&B songwriter, Allen Toussaint (“Wrong Number”) and a young American soul/blues acolyte, Eli “Paperboy” Reed (“Take My Love With You”).
 
“I started realizing that there are a lot of great tunes that I love by other writers out there,” he says, explaining how an album of covers came to be. “This project is basically me and my band putting our own spin on some of them. After so many albums of self-penned songs, I wanted to take a break from myself, do something different, and just have fun.”
 
Thorn continues to tour while he sets up the new album, headlining some dates and co-billed with Ruthie Foster on others. He’s also signed on to perform some significant festivals: July 1 at FitzGerald’s American Music Festival just outside Chicago; July 3 at Milwaukee’s lakefront SummerFest, and October 5 at Helena, Ark.’s historic King Biscuit Blues Festival.
 
Track Listing:
“Don't Let Me Down Again” (Lindsey Buckingham)                                       
“Snake Farm” (Ray Wylie Hubbard)                                  
“Shelter Me Lord” (Buddy & Julie Miller)                             
“Shed A Little Light” (Foy Vance)                                       
“What The Hell Is Goin' On” featuring Elvin Bishop on guitar (Elvin Bishop)   
"Small Town Talk" (Rick Danko)                                                  
“Walk In My Shadow” (Paul Rodgers/Andy Fraser)                                       
“Wrong Number” (Allen Toussaint)                                    
“Bull Mountain Bridge” featuring Delbert McClinton (Wild Bill & Martha Jo Emerson)    
“Jukin'”  (Big Al Anderson/Shawn Camp/Pat McLaughlin)                              
“She's Got A Crush On Me” (Donnie Fritts/Billy Lawson)
“Take My Love With You” (Eli “Paperboy” Reed)
 
Soul Salvation Tour featuring Paul Thorn and Ruthie Foster
Wed., March 28  KANSAS CITY, MO Knuckleheads
Thurs., March 29  ST. LOUIS, MO  Old Rock House
Fri., March 30  BLOOMINGTON, IL  The Castle Theatre
Sat., March 31  SCHAUMBURG, IL  Prairie Center for the Arts
Mon.-Tues., April 2-3  MINNEAPOLIS, MN  Dakota

 

Paul Thorn tour
Thurs., April 12  GREEN BAY, WI Riverside Ballroom
Fri, April 13  IOWA, IA The Mill
Sat., April 14  GALESBURG, IL Fat Fish
Tues., April 17  THE WOODLANDS, TX Solo radio show taping, Dosey Doe
Sun., April 29  CHARLESTON, WV Solo radio show taping, Mountain Stage

 

Soul Salvation Tour featuring Paul Thorn and Ruthie Foster
Wed., May 2  LAFAYETTE, LA  Acadiana Center for the Arts
Thurs., May 3  NEW ORLEANS, LA House of Blues
Fri., May 4  BATON ROUGE, LA  Manship Theatre
Sat., May 5  MERIDIAN, MS  MSU Riley Center for the Performing Arts

 

Paul Thorn tour
Thurs., May 10  JACKSON, MS  Duling Hall  
Fri., May 11  BIRMINGHAM, AL  WorkPlay Theatre
Sat., May 12  ATLANTA, GA  Variety Playhouse
Sun., May 13  NASHVILLE, TN  3rd and Lindsley
Wed., May 16  AUSTIN, TX One World theatre
Fri., May 18  DALLAS, TX Kessler Theater
Fri., May 25  TAMPA, FL Solo acoustic at Skipper’s Smokehouse
Sat., May 26 TAMPA, FL Full band at Skipper’s Smokehouse
Fri., June 1  TUPELO, MS  Tupelo Elvis Festival
Sat., June 2  MEMPHIS, TN  New Daisy Theatre
Fri., June 29  LOUISVILLE, KY Jim Porter's Good Time Emporium
Sun., July 1  BERWYN (CHICAGO), IL  FitzGerald’s American Music Festival
Tues., July 3  MILWAUKEE, WI SummerFest
Fri., July 13  STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO Strings Music Festival
Sat., July 21 MOSCOW, ID Rendezvous in the Park
Fri., Aug. 3  SANTA CRUZ, CA Rio Theatre
Sat.-Sun., Aug. 4-5  NICASIO, CA Rancho Nicasio
Sat.-Sun., Sept. 8-9  REMUS, MI  Wheatland Music Festival
Fri., Oct. 5  HELENA, AR  King Biscuit Blues Festival

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