A Triple-bill of Americana Singer, Songwriters/ November 12th

PAUL THORN, KEVIN GORDON, PAUL BIRCH

Friday, November 12, 2010

THE SQUARE ROOM

Tickets: $15

Doors open at 8p.m.

About Paul Thorn:

Among those who value originality, inspiration, eccentricity, and character - as well as talent that hovers somewhere on the outskirts of genius, the story of Paul Thorn is already familiar. Now, Thorn reveals another layer of his fascinating history on the album Pimps & Preachers, addressing that subject on the title cut and in the intriguing "family portrait" he painted for the cover, which highlights his daddy the preacher and his uncle the pimp.

Pimps & Preachers addresses this lingering riddle. On Thorn's ninth album, released on his own Perpetual Obscurity label (through Thirty Tigers/RED), the answer begins in the title and the cover image, painted by Thorn with the same power, paradoxes, rough edges and passions that animate his writing and performance. Specifically, it takes us to a central theme of Thorn's youth: the pull of polar opposites - one representing the severe ecstasies of fundamental faith and the other, the pleasures stigmatized and yet glamorized by the church.

Similar ambiguities fuel the work of other artists to whom Thorn can be compared, from Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams all the way back to Robert Johnson and Hank Williams. What stands Thorn apart from this august company is how personally this dichotomy guided his formative years. In his seminal albums, particularly his landmark Mission Temple Fireworks Stand, his upbringing as the son of a Church of God pentecostal minister became a matter of record. What hasn't been clear, though, is the parallel impact of his father's brother, who showed up suddenly from California when Thorn was 12 years old.

Each track recounts its own story while clarifying and reinforcing Thorn's broader vision. The comic yet unsettlingly candid account of romantic opportunity lost too soon on “Nona Lisa,” the immeasurable intensity of love captured in the artfully offhand lyrics of “That's Life” (taken entirely from words spoken to Thorn by his mother), the assurances extended to all who suffer through uncertain times in “Better Days Ahead” - every moment on Pimps & Preachers speaks universally but with a fluency that stems from the earthy blues, haunted old-school country, and stripped-down urgency of the gospel music that surrounded Thorn throughout his Mississippi upbringing.