Paul Thorn’s ninth album, Pimps and Preachers, features more than pithy alliteration. Mentored by a true house divided, Thorn’s father was a Pentecostal minister and his paternal uncle was a pimp. Thorn incitefully acknowledges the life lessons gleaned from each, and that no person is either all-good or all-bad; people are much more complicated than such black-and-white categories. Interestingly, the divisions in the US between the races–both historically and currently–are noted in our conversation about church. Until recent reconciliation, the Pentecostal denomination had two main sectors, one black and one white, each with their own rich musical traditions. Thorn benefitted from both, because as a preacher’s child, his family frequently visited other Pentecostal churches, despite the unspoken divisions. He absorbed both the R&B inspired Gospel music of the historically black churches, and the “country Gospel” music of the historically white churches. He makes astute observation about how God may or may not inspire modern Gospel songs at all.
Paul Thorn’s artistic path sounds like a five and dime movie starlet’s–getting discovered by Miles Copeland while playing guitar in a pizza place in Tupelo, but the actual tale is more gritty than that. After moving out of his parents’ home into his first “luxury trailer,” Thorn worked as a professional boxer, then in a furniture factory, and played acoustic guitar at night on the side. Pimps and Preachers brought recognition for his songwriting and three weeks topping the Americana charts, but it also meant that he was rarely home over the last couple of years. Above all, Thorn values his family and creative integrity.
One of the music profession’s truths is revealed and reflected in our conversation, “All of a sudden, after years of playing, people noticed my music, and I had my own following.” Thorn notes that music promotion goes beyond his own records. He fervently supports the entire genre of roots music within Americana, as he sees its success as benefitting all its songwriters. Thorn’s call to action is, “It’s up to people like me and you to inform the world that this thing (Americana) exists.” From playing dates with Bonnie Raitt, to hearing the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Americana Music Awards, to the rock duo the Black Keys, Thorn sees a deep roots music scene existing now, if people can only find it. Paul proposes that he become the official spokesperson for the Americana genre, as “the Colonel Sanders of Americana.” Secret spices recipe be danged…you’re going to spend thirty minutes in H-E-double-L when you listen to Colonel Sanders’ Mandolin Band. You can’t make this stuff up.
Songs in Episode 1105 include:
- Three from Paul Thorn’s album, Pimps and Preachers
- An early Elvis Presley tune, “Stranger in My Home Town”
- Hank Williams, “I Saw the Light”
- Sting, “Next to You” from Symphonicities
- Carolina Chocolate Drops, “Hit ‘Em Up Style”
- The Black Keys, “Ohio”
- Bobby Sherman, “Easy Come, Easy Go”
You have to listen to the interview for this one to make sense: