Well established by his four studio albums, Paul Thorn is a fine guitarist and songwriter with an original singing voice and a fine sense of irony -- something that's missing from contemporary blues and rock records. This DVD is a live document of Thorn working his sweaty magic in front of a truly appreciative crowd in Birmingham, AL, both with his band and solo acoustic. Also included is a segment from a film by John Kane made as part of his series about unknown musicians, called Fellow Americans
. It is an excellent portrait of Thorn, who was working a day job at the time. This document also includes a bonus audio CD of the live show; it is proof in the pudding that the man can deliver outside the confines of the recording studio. The tunes come from Thorn's two albums, Mission Temple Fireworks Stand
and Are You with Me?
Thorn may not be a household name, but it doesn't seem like he gives a rat's ass, either. This music is gritty, raucous, full of energy, and with a heart that pumps blood instead of sawdust. There is poetry in roadhouse music like this -- music that combines the blues, old-school R&B, roots rock & roll, and a true sense of working-class poetry. Standout tracks on the CD include the blue-eyed soul ballad "Every Little Bit Hurts," which is reminiscent of the great delivery of Eddie Hinton
; the swampy blues-rock of "Burn Down the Trailer Park"; the midtempo rock ballad "I Have a Good Day"; and the smoking rocker "Rise Up," which is as close to a working-class rock anthem as exists in rock & roll today (and it should be sung at every political rally on both sides of the red and blue divide) -- one that is drenched in Southern soul, a bluesy groove, and a rock & roll heart. The sheer good-time excess of "Mission Temple Fireworks Stand" fuses gospel, Tony Joe White
swamp funk, electric blues, and Jerry Lee Lewis
piano rockabilly and turns them all inside out. The set closes with a barroom celebration of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?," which is perhaps the only way this old folk hymn should be sung in the post-9/11 world. There's a certain authenticity this music presents to listeners that is immediate, raw, and sincere. Thorn is no wannabe bluesman, nor is he a consummate rock & roll street poet. His roots go way deeper than that -- they are defined by a certain class consciousness that expresses pain through woolly raucous joy, and joy itself as something to raise the roof about. If anything, Thorn and his fine band play post-religious church music, and that church service happens in barrooms, in juke joints, and at backyard BBQs every night of the year. Thorn is a poet all right, one whose working-class roots didn't come from his parents and were passed down through the gene pool or by osmosis. They were earned and are worn as a greasy, sweaty badge of honor. He's one of those songwriters who may be too obvious and brash for most, but his words and music contain virtually everything gloriously and singularly vulgar about America and he makes no apologies for it. So Far So Good is a party that welcomes all regardless of race, class, creed, or religious belief. Highly recommended.