Paul Thorn - What the Hell is Goin On?
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What the Hell is Goin On? (Perpetual Obscurity, 2012)

Paul Thorn

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

Singer-songwriter Paul Thorn decided to put his pen on the paper, not to the paper, on his latest. As a result he's opting to sift through the catalog of other musicians and put his own spin on them. And while a solid writer in his own right, what Thorn delivers with this covers album is a finely-tuned, well-thought out collection. From the opening notes of the Lindsey Buckingham-penned Fleetwood Mac song Don't Let Me Down Again, Thorn's John Hiatt-meets-Cocker (Joe, not Jarvis) delivery sells the song immediately. Toss in a healthy stash of slide guitar and the toe-tapper shines. Then again Thorn can dish out slow soulful ballads a la The Black Crowes on the gentle, hymnal effort Shed A Little Light.

Thorn sinks his teeth into each song with zeal, making the slow, Southern-fried Snake Farm a groovy little nugget that could (and should) be fleshed out far longer in concert. The feather in the song's cap is managing to refer to British band The Alarm in its lyrics while not losing its roadhouse charm. Perhaps the biggest highlight - and there are many - is the boogie-tinged blues-rock Thorn brings to the title track with the song's writer Elvin Bishop bringing some brilliant bottleneck slide guitar. Thorn's refusal to clean the album up stylistically but instead rely on a somewhat seedy, seamy feel js a great selling point. This is particularly evident on the gospel-tinged Shelter Me Lord, a Buddy and Julie Miller track.

If there's one miscue here it might be Thorn's rather ordinary rendition of The Band's Small Town Talk, which slows things down with the momentum momentarily stifled. Thankfully it's Bad Company's blues-soaked riffs on Walk In My Shadow that should have listeners walking back on cloud nine again. The only drawback here might be that it fades out far, far too quickly, almost teasing you. Another keeper is Bull Mountain Ridge with Delbert McClinton lending his pipes to the proceedings. Only on She's Got A Crush On Me does Thorn's slow ballad approach pay off, resembling a little bit of Have A Little Faith In Me.

Thorn has made this album his own, something which a lot of covers project can't quite succeed at. And it's well worth putting this album on a shelf alongside your Raitt, Hiatt and Lovett albums.

CDs by Paul Thorn

Don't Let the Devil Ride, 2018 Too Blessed to Be Stressed, 2014 What the Hell is Goin On?, 2012 Pimps and Preachers, 2010

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