Paul Thorn

Pimps & Preachers

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Pimps and Preachers fills in the missing pieces of Paul Thorn's musical autobiography and goes further. Throughout his career as a singer and songwriter (he's had others -- as a boxer who battled Roberto Duran on national television and as a factory worker, to mention just two), Thorn has offered narratives of the sacred and the profane. Most often these have been in the first person, steeped in Southern musical traditions informed by gospel, rhythm & blues, roots rock, and blues. That said, while anyone who's followed him knows his father was a Church of God preacher, few knew his uncle -- his father's brother -- was, in his own youth, a pimp, and Thorn's life was informed by both. The grand funky blues of the title track and the beautiful, electric country soul of "I Hope I'm Doing This Right" tell those stories in his beautifully direct, rough-and-tumble poetic style. But it's the rest of the album that reflects his growing sophistication as a songwriter. Check the rollicking opener, "You're Not the Only One," with its .38 Special-esque shuffling guitars accompanying him, relating a morality tale about the similarity of people's problems despite their standing in life. "Love Scar" artfully tells a (true) story that a woman revealed to him about a unique tattoo she received (and regrets) during a vulnerable time in her life and how the memory of the experience haunts her. Despite his obvious gravelly baritone and masculine delivery, he offers this midtempo ballad -- one of the saddest allegories on love's blindness written in a long time -- with great empathy: "He said, if I could be a tear/Rollin' down your cheek/And die on your lips/My life would be complete/The words that he said really hit her in the heart/So now she's walkin' round with a love scar." "You Might Be Wrong" is a rock & roll admonition about self righteousness -- that no one holds a monopoly on the truth. "Tequila Is Good for the Heart" is a rocking, humorous but poignant honky tonk waltz that claims both prayer and drinking are a good combination for curing a broken heart. The raucous, funky shuffle "I Don't Like Half the Folks I Love" is a personal revelation that hits close to home for most of us. Ultimately, Pimps and Preachers is a great rock & roll album that -- for all its good-time feel -- accomplishes the profound: it exposes the fictions, both spiritual and carnal, that promise us heaven, while holding us bound and twitching, just above our particular hells.

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