Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paul Thorn Illustrates Vivid 'Pimps And Preachers' Scene On Folk Art Album Cover

Paul Thorn likes to call himself Tupelo’s second most famous singer, after – of course – Elvis Presley. Dubbed by the San Francisco Chronicle as the “Springsteen from Mississippi,” Paul is a master storyteller, who expertly weaves his unique life story into each of his tracks, Pimps & Preachers included.  

Paul appeals to fans of classic as well as indie rock – he just headlined Mountain Stage at the end of May and Tupelo’s annual Elvis Festival the first weekend in June. 

Like Presley, Thorn grew up in a Pentecostal church, but Paul's father was actually the preacher. Thorn's uncle was a former pimp, and Paul's relationship with the two of them gave rise to the title track on the new album. Thorn himself was a blue-collar worker before he became a full-time musician, and is a powerful performer who, on record and on stage, weaves the pimps, preachers and characters of his adventurous life into a compelling series of tales with the directness of Elvis in his '68 comeback special.

One of the most profound songs on the Southern raconteur called “Kris Kristofferson backed by the Stones” (SF Chronicle) Paul Thorn’s new record ‘Pimps and Preachers,’ out June 22 on Perpetual Obscurity Records, is “I Hope I’m Doin’ This Right,” which features the line “Hank Williams was in the darkness when he sang ‘I Saw The Light,’ I believe there’s good in everyone, I hope I’m doin’ this right.” It’s Williams’ ability to write the song despite his own condition that inspired Thorn.

“I was talking to somebody the other day about this and they said, ‘As big an alcoholic and a screw-up as Hank Williams was, how did he ever write a song that beautiful?’” Thorn says, “And I said, ‘He was able to write it because he was an alcoholic and a screw-up. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have even recognized where the darkness and light were.”

On top of being "a Southern-rock Bob Seger" (Rolling Stone), Paul Thorn is also an accomplished folk art painter, and he's crafted a vivid piece for the cover of his new album.

Set at the corner of Redemption Lane and Turn Out Blvd., the colorful artwork is bristling with rich detail, from the angel and devil seated on their respective street signs to a pennant's Pentecostal symbols to the fistfuls of cash on the pimp's side of the street that bear a curious resemblance to those in the preacher's collection plate. The cover, and album's title track, depicts the strange-but-true story of Thorn's preacher father and pimp uncle, two of his biggest influences.

The album cover, Thorn says, "describes who I am.” Which, Kris Kristofferson opines, is someone "absolutely Southern, absolutely original, full of heart and humor and surprises and street-wise details of trailer parks and turnip greens and love and lust that have the unmistakable ring of truth."

Paul talks about the inspiration for the song I Hope I'm Doin' This Right

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