Late Night OTB – Paul Thorn

More whimsical than most of my selections but we could use that right about now.

Tonight’s artist is a little bit of a departure for our music fest. While still in the Americana genre, Paul Thorn’s songs are more whimsical than most that I post here. But we could use some of that right about now.

Like some other musicians I’ve featured of late, Thorn has been around quite a long time but somehow escaped my attention until recently. His Wikipedia bio is short but interesting:

Thorn was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin but raised in Tupelo, Mississippi after a family move when he was an infant.

Before his professional music career began he was a professional boxer. Boxing career highlights include winning the Mid-South Middleweight Championship in Memphis, Tennessee and a nationally televised bout with former world champion Roberto Durán, After a few years of working in a Tupelo furniture factory and playing in local clubs he was discovered by music professional Miles Copeland (brother of The Police drummer Stewart Copeland).

In 1997, while performing at a singer-songwriters night at a local pizza shop (Vanelli’s), Roger Sovine representing BMI overheard Thorn and was impressed with his singing and song writing ability. He asked Thorn if he had his permission to share his name with other record companies in Nashville. A couple weeks later, Thorn called vOz Vanelli (owner of Vanelli’s) and mentioned that several record companies were coming to Tupelo to hear him perform. Thorn asked if he could come and play at Vanelli’s which vOz agreed to. After hearing Thorn perform, Wyatt Easterling (an associate of Miles Copeland III) brought Thorn to Nashville and within thirty days, Thorn opened for Sting. Thorn was subsequently signed to a recording contract with A&M Records and recorded his first album, Hammer & Nail, in 1997. He left A&M soon after and followed Hammer & Nail with thirteen more albums, all self-released and self-produced with his writing and production partner, Billy Maddox.

Thorn’s 2010 album Pimps and Preachers debuted at No. 83 on the Billboard 200 chart, his highest chart position to date. His 2012 album What the Hell Is Going On was the 12th Most Played Album of 2012 on the Americana Music Association Year-End Chart. What the Hell Is Going On was Thorn’s first album to feature the songwriting of other artists and the second record of his to debut on the Billboard Top 100 during its first week of release.

Thorn has toured as an opening act for Huey Lewis & the News, Sting, John Prine, Marianne Faithfull, Mark Knopfler, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt, Toby Keith and Jeff Beck, Jerry Jeff Walker.

In 2014, Thorn released Too Blessed to Be Stressed, which he described as a collection of “positive anthem songs.” “I wrote these songs hoping they might put people in a positive mindset and encourage them to count their own blessings, like I count mine,” Thorn observes. “There’s no higher goal I could set for myself than to help other people find some happiness and gratitude in their lives.”

The first of his songs I can recall hearing, and it wasn’t all that long ago, was  “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love,” off 2010’s Pimps and Preachers:

Here’s the title track from that album:

And here’s the title track from 2012’s What the Hell Is Going On:

I Guess I’ll Just Stay Married” is amusing mostly because of the earnestness with which he sings the lyrics:

It doesn’t appear to have been on any of his studio albums but was included with the DVD for 2006’s So Far So Good: Best Of The Paul Thorn Band Live.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. de stijl says:

    Prince “I Could Never Take the Place Of Your Man”

    Bobby Womack “Just Across 110th Street”

    Kate Nash “Foundations”

    People other than white guys with guitars are perfectly capable of making transformative music.


  2. de stijl says:

    Mr. Joyner, I offer a challenge.

    For your next “Late Night” choice you shan’t pick a white man with a guitar. That would be prohibited under the rules I propose.

    Do you accept?


  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Too much fun.


  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: He is sharing music he has discovered and enjoyed over the years, not the music you have. Why don’t you try offering him something you think he might like given his obvious tastes in music?

    Myself, I think the Carolina Chocolate Drops might suit: “Hit ‘Em Up Style”

    Country Girl


  5. de stijl says:


    Why don’t you try offering him something you think he might like given his obvious tastes in music?

    Done and done. Three weeks ago I offered up The Mountain Goats’ “Up The Wolves” which is def in Joyner’s wheelhouse given his posted music choices and AJJ (fka Andrew Jackson Jihad) “People II: The Reckoning” as the stretch choice.

    I’m not immune to genre blindness or style cohesion, but is is a trap that limits us. No one can live on Sergio Leone-style visual story telling alone. I’ve been there. I was a white guy with a guitar stuck in a genre ghetto. I can go for days in The Pauls’ (Westerberg & Weller) shadow. But if we stay there forever we die a little.

    I like confessional country / country-influenced bluesy folk rock played by white guys with guitars. It’s part of a diet. But you need all of the food groups to live.

    I stand by my challenge to Joyner.


  6. al-Ameda says:

    Paul was on Terry Gross’s NPR Fresh Air show the other night, interesting interview. I’ve got to say, he does a really nice version of The O’Jays’ “Love Train”

    … again, the music is happening all around us, we’ve got to find our way to it, it’s different than it was 30-40 years ago, but it’s going on.


  7. de stijl says:


    Which Paul?

    Actually, doesn’t matter. Either one will do. And I adore Terry Gross as an interviewer.

    Thanks for the heads up!