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PAUL THORN —DON’T LET THE DEVIL RIDE (Perpetual Obscurity / Thirty Tigers Records)

After a dozen albums  roots rock Americana act, Tupelo Mississippi raised Paul Thorn has on his latest album returned to his gospel roots, and boy doesn’t he sound good. Joined by The Blind Boys of Alabama, The McCrary Sisters, the Preservation Hall Jazz Horns and Bonnie Bishop he takes his philosophy of loving everybody a step farther. On this culmination of his life in music. With it produced by Billy Maddox and Colin Linden the record lacks nothing in the way of body as blues, soul and gospel meet at the crossroads. 

The songs are made up of lesser known gospel chestnuts recorded by small Mississippi and Alabama labels in the 1950s-1970s, plus a cover of the O’Jays' big hit single “Love Train”. With Thorn in the company of the outstanding acts noted they all embrace the 14-track collection of work like their lives depended on it! So tight and well drilled is the playing and vocal collaborations the bar edges a little higher throughout. The connection between The Blind Boys Of Alabama, the McCrarys and Bonnie Bishop and Thorn could not be bettered or arguably matched. Such the honesty of those involved, not least that of Thorn!   

Recorded in Sam Phillips’ Memphis Studios, New Orleans’ Preservation Hall and FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals the one-time professional boxer (he once fought Roberto Duran) has Thorn release his joy for old fashion southern gospel music (and contributories) and life itself. He sounds like he has never felt more comfortable or assured with himself or the music performed. Thorn opens whirl wind fashion on “Come On Let’s Go” and with a number of surprises thrown up during the journey genuine highs are obtained on “Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed” and on producing a soulful funky gospel groove “One More River” (complete with swirling organ) that has a slightly edgy, rumbling feel to it. While on looking back, going way back in fact he has a rare delight in “He’ll Make A Way” (on the opening segment he speaks of shouting and dancing in an old country church as he looks to find God as the feel of an old-time gospel meeting is generated), and he follows it with the busy, chugging travel like “Don’t Let The Devil Ride”. Draped in superb vocal harmonies and, from time to time excellent piano and smouldering lead guitar a restless feel reigns from beginning to end! He sounds like he is right there in the church, and with lots of complimentary hues among the players, and even more so – the vocalists, Thorn and support hold the attention of the listener in the palm of their hand. 

Others of note include smouldering gem “The Half Has Never Been Told”, slow ambling ode “You Gotta Move” and with a travel feel to it “Keep Holdin’ On”. This as he speaks of travelling the king’s highway and his various moods as he treads his path. While in “Soon I Will Be Done” (a rousing affair that can't fail to move the listener) you have arguably the best track on the record 

                                                                                                          Maurice Hope                    


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May 2018

John Prine
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Settling Scores vol. 2

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