Blue-collar roots anchor Paul Thorn’s music

mrowland@modbee.comMarch 13, 2014 

Blues singer Paul Thorn performs next week at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

COURTESY PAUL THORN

  • More information

    WHAT: Paul Thorn

    WHEN: 8 p.m. March 21

    WHERE: Foster Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto

    TICKETS: $15-$30

    CALL: (209) 338-2100

    ONLINE: www.galloarts.org

Son of a preacher, fists of a boxer, skills of a furniture maker and voice of a man who knows a lot more about life than just strumming a guitar.

Singer-songwriter Paul Thorn has been belting out his own distinctly American mix of blues and rock since 1997, when his first album “Hammer and Nail” was released. Since then the Tupelo, Miss.-raised musical journeyman has created a loyal following defying his cheekily named independent record label, Perpetual Obscurity.

“When we started out, the name was a joke,” Thorn said of his label. “That’s what we called it when I first started out. Now it’s not like that. We have a good following that has been with us for years. But we still like the name. It’s a good reminder where you came from and where you could be if you stop working.”

The son of a Pentecostal preacher, Thorn worked for years in a furniture factory when he was younger and then spent about 10 years as a professional boxer. His most famous fight was a nationally televised bout in 1988 against Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran. He went six rounds before being defeated by the boxing legend.

But music was always in Thorn’s heart, whether he was building chairs or throwing punches.

“Music was something I always did. I grew up in the Pentecostal church. The black people and white people celebrated together and the music was incredible,” Thorn said in recent phone interview with The Bee. “That is where I really learned about music growing up singing in the Pentecostal music.”

The people he sings about reflect his background. Just like his 2010 album title, his musical subjects stretch from “Pimps and Preachers” and beyond.

“It’s what I know. I grew up around common people. That’s what you’ll hear in my songs, the human condition,” he said.

While Thorn doesn’t classify himself as a blues artist, his blue-collar music works in a variety of settings. He has played blues festivals across the United States and appeared on everything from NPR’s “All Things Considered” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

In August he has a new studio album coming out, which he is in the process of recording now. He has tours in Australia and the United States lined up this year.

He said his shows, like his song subjects, are authentic.

He simply doesn’t know another way to do things.

“One thing I can guarantee, I never mail it in. I never just trying to get it over with. I sing my songs and I talk to the crowd between songs. I like to make everyone feel like we are visiting,” he said. “When show is over, I sign CDs and take pictures. I will stay until the last people leave. My father being a minister, I know the importance of loving people.”

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter @marijkerowland.

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