[19 August 2014]
Paul Thorn’s most frequently quoted song is, “It’s a Great Day to Whup Somebody’s Ass”. The former boxer who fought Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran on national TV could certainly kick the butts of most people in the world today. You can buy this saying on a bumper sticker at www.paulthorn.com. He’s recently offered a new bumper sticker for sale, his second. “Too Blessed to Be Stressed” it reads, the title of Thorn’s latest record.
Thorn’s still a tough guy, but he has always had a heart of gold. On previous records he’s done his best to inspire listeners with songs such as “What Have You Done to Lift Somebody Up”. The son of a preacher man empathizes with others and offers words of wisdom and hope. As the title song suggests, Thorn appreciates the little things in life one takes for granted: family, love, a good rock beat, etc. There’s no reason to get upset by traffic, people who let you down, and such—instead one should count one’s blessings and chill.
Make no mistake. This ain’t no Christian music, despite the affirmative message. Thorn does not care who or what you believe in, or if you believe in anything. He just wants you to treat others with respect and to respect yourself. It’s been sung many times before, but Thorn puts an infectious Southern spin on it with a blues-rock guitar style and a backbeat. When he drawls about backsliding, you know he enjoys the sinning as much as the repenting—which explains why he continues to do both.
He has an infectious sense of humor, which tempers his seriousness and makes him fun to hear. But Thorn can just play it straight while engaging in creative wordplay that makes one think. He declares, “Mediocrity’s King” and offers compelling evidence for our current malaise with lines like, “Johnny Cash couldn’t get arrested these days” and “Republicans and Democrats are breakin’ my heart / I can’t tell them sons of bitches apart.” Anyone who currently listens to country radio or political commercials knows how true this is. Thorn does not point fingers as much as express frustration.
There is a sure fire cure for most melancholy. That’s gospel-rooted, R&B style rock and roll, like the kind Thorn makes here. When he sings oddball anthems, such as “The Old Stray Dog and Jesus” about a drug-addled homeless guy who still finds a reason to seek pleasure in the world, or offers the stoic romanticism of “Everybody Needs Somebody” to a bellowing martial cadence, Thorn transcends the notion of songs as mere entertainments. He edifies using the power of music with lessons that instruct not to judge, but to help others.
This is high praise for music that has low-class affectations. Thorn’s humble, which is not to say he’s not proud. But Thorn maintains a façade of just being a regular guy, or maybe less than that, who just gets by. He sings about fried chicken, cornbread, playing Twister with the kids, a house with a white picket fence, etc., but these signify his ordinariness. At the same time, Thorn sings about how lucky we are to have others in our life. This commonplace fact makes us all special. He’s right, most of us are “too blessed to be stressed”. We have food, drink, shelter, family, and friends. Despite our problems, we have our regular lives, which really is kind of extraordinary! So is Thorn and his music.