Pimps And Preachers

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PAUL THORN - das ist mal wieder so ein richtiger Rockshouter vor dem Herrn! Einer, wie man ihn nicht so häufig findet in der weiten Roots Rock-Welt. Paul Thorn stammt aus Tupelo, Mississippi und hat die Eigenarten des Südens bereits mit der Muttermilch aufgesogen, was sich in kraftvoller poetischer Lyrik ausdrückt, genauso wie in einer deftigen (Southern) Rock-Ästhetik. Auf der Bühne natürlich direkter und lauter, aber auch im Studio ist seine urwüchsige Power als "Joe Cocker from the South" nicht zu unterschätzen. Pimps And Preachers ist bereits Paul Thorn's 8. Album seit 1997. Es eignet sich bestens, den gestandenen Musiker, der vielleicht in unseren Regionen noch nicht den Bekanntheitsgrad innehat, der ihm gebührt, einem größeren, neuen Publikum vorzustellen.

Der Mittvierziger Paul Thorn braucht sich den Stoff für seine Songs wahrlich nicht aus den Fingern zu saugen, dazu hat er einfach zuviel erlebt: Er arbeitete als Tischler in einer Möbelfabrik, war als Fallschirmspringer tätig und hat sich über eine längere Zeit erfolgreich als Profiboxer im Supermittelgewicht versucht - bis er 1988 in Atlantic City der Latino-Boxlegende Roberto Duran unterlag. Noch entscheidender für sein Leben war allerdings die Sache mit den Zuhältern (Pimps) und Predigern (Preachers) in seiner Familie! Vom Vater sehr streng religiös erzogen - so durfte er als Kid z.B. keine Rockkonzerte besuchen, sein erstes dieser Art war dann später tatsächlich sein erster eigener Auftritt! - erfuhr er von ihm aber auch wesentliche Werte wie Menschlichkeit, Liebe und Moral. Ganz anders sein Onkel im fernen Kalifornien, der in jungen Jahren wirklich als Zuhälter im Halbweltmilieu lebte und von dem er gelernt hat, wie man vorwärts kommt im Leben, wie man ein Fighter wird!

Diese Ambivalenz zwischen Gut und Böse, Jesus und Teufel, Erfolg und Verzweiflung zieht sich wie ein roter Faden durch die meisten Paul Thorn-Songs und macht sie so unerhört attraktiv. Hammer And Nail - eine ähnliche Metapher dieser Art - hieß in 1997 sein Debütalbum auf A&M (der bekannte Talentscout und A&R-Mann Miles Copeland hatte ihn entdeckt). Weitere Alben sind Ain't Love Strange (00), Live At Short Street (00), das auch bei uns recht erfolgreiche Mission Temple Fireworks Stand (02), Are You With Me (04), ein weiteres Live-Album So Far So Good Live (06) und zuletzt A Long Way From Tupelo (08), das klar als das bis dato reifstes und souveränstes Paul Thorn-Werk gilt... - um mit Pimps And Preachers nun seinen würdigen Nachfolger zu finden!

Pimps And Preachers ist ein kolossales 13-Titel-Statement geworden, in dem ein Rädchen sorgfältig ins andere greift. Das ist eine grandiose Roots Rock/Gospel/ Songwriter/R&B/Southern Rock-Show mit einer Fülle von Hooks, Riffs und Refrains, wie man sie nur selten in dieser geballten Qualität zu hören bekommt! Und neben Paul Thorn als "Chef im Ring" muss man seine überragende, perfekt eingespielte Band nennen, die zu ihm passt wie die E-Street Band zu Bruce Springsteen oder die Heartbreakers zu Tom Petty. Von Beginn an, also von 1997, ist der versierte Lead & Slide Gitarrist Bill Hinds dabei, ein Mann wie ein Fels, der mit Thorn in vorderster Front ein wahres Dreamteam bildet. Aber auch der Rest der Band hat sich schnell gefunden. Spätestens Anfang der Dekade hatten Bassist Doug Kahan, Drummer Jeffrey Perkins und Keyboarder/Gitarrist/Multiinstrumentalist Michael Graham ihre festen Plätze eingenommen und bis heute nicht mehr hergegeben. Das stimmt, das passt!

'You're Not The Only One' setzt zum Einsteig eine hohe Marke: Eingeleitet von einem einfachen Gitarrenriff entwickelt sich die hohe Schule des refrainstarken Classic Rock, kernige Vocals, Slide Guitar-Solo, Mandolinen- und Klavieruntermalung inklusive! Darauf folgt schon der prägnante Titelsong in Tony Joe White-meets-John Mellencamp-Reinkultur und mit ausladenden Rocksoli. 'Tequila Is Good For The Heart' ist die erste von gleich mehreren soulig-gospeligen Gänsehautballaden und untermauert eindrucksvoll die Joe Cocker-Assoziation. Das semiakustische 'Love Scar' handelt von einem Tattoo auf einer Lady's Schulter und lässt Thorn solch einen genialen Satz schmachten wie: "if I could be a tear rolling down your cheek and die on your lips, my life would be complete". Bevor es gar zu süßlich wird, lässt man es auf 'Weeds In My Roses' lieber wieder krachen: Die Drums kicken, die Gitarren bratzen und der Bass pumpt! 'Better Days Ahead' ist dynamischer New Orleans Slide'n Groove Rock mit etwas Akkordion, 'Ray Ann's Shoes' dagegen slowed down Acoustic Folk mit Fiddle, während 'You Might Be Wrong' das Tempo wieder anzieht, mit Memphis-style Roots & Roll, Bottleneck Guitar und Wurlitzer Piano. 'Buckskin Jones' gehört mit seiner schwülen, angefunkten Stimmung eindeutig zur Südstaaten-Fraktion, mit 'I Hope I'm Doin' This Right' folgt eine weitere Killerballade, 'I Don't Like Half The Folks I Love' ist eine Art tongue-in-cheek Rock'n Roller, der es bereits zu www.-Ruhm gebracht hat und mit seinem cleveren Wortspiel mehr als einen Hauch Autobiografisches preisgibt. 'Nona Lisa' bedeutet nochmal ohrenfreundliche Paul Thorn-Songkost in einer Mischung aus Country & Guitar Rock, bevor das Album mit einer wahren Crooner-Ballade auf 'Dark End Of The Street'-Niveau endet! Getragen von einem Teppich aus Klavier, Electric Piano und Orgel, ergänzt von gefühlvollen elektrischen Gitarren ertönt Thorn's sämig-soulige Stimme zum fast wehmütigen Abschied: 'That's Life'.

Pimps And Preachers kommt auch als limitierte Deluxe Edition mit Bonus-DVD. Die enthält einen kompletten Live-Mitschnitt eines Konzerts in Birmingham, Alabama von 2005.


Among those who value originality, inspiration, eccentricity, and character - as well as talent that hovers somewhere on the outskirts of genius, the story of PAUL THORN is already familiar. Now, Thorn reveals another layer of his fascinating history on the album Pimps & Preachers, addressing that subject on the title cut and in the intriguing "family portrait" he painted for the cover, which highlights his daddy the preacher and his uncle the pimp.

The cover depicts a teeming street scene at the unlikely intersection of Redemption Lane and Turn Out Boulevard. Two figures dominate: a pimp and a preacher, both dressed to the nines beneath broad-brimmed hats, surrounded by hookers, holy rollers and hangers-on, and all on their paths to salvation or perdition. Nearly lost in this tumult is a small boy banging a tambourine branded with the name of Jesus, but backed up against a streetwalker holding a fistful of greenbacks. “That little boy represents me,” says Thorn. “I'm in the church group, but my eyes are looking back to the street where all the sin is going on. It shows me being intrigued by the broad world. That's why I made this my album cover. It describes who I am.”

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi and raised among the same spirits (and some of the actual people) who nurtured a young Elvis generations before, Thorn has rambled down back roads and jumped out of airplanes, worked for years in a furniture factory, battled four-time world champion boxer Roberto Durán on national television, signed with and been dropped by a major label, opened for Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, and John Prine among many other headliners, and made some of the most emotionally restless yet fully accessible music of our time.

Still, Thorn's story has never been complete. If you follow it back through his songs, at some point near the beginning the mysteries gather like a mist, obscuring the picture and leaving unanswered the question of how he acquired his ability to find brilliance buried in shadows, darkness in daylight, poetry in the mundane, and truth in the brutal beauties of life.

Pimps & Preachers addresses this lingering riddle. On Thorn's ninth album, the answer begins in the title and the cover image, painted by Thorn with the same power, paradoxes, rough edges and passions that animate his writing and performance. Specifically, it takes us to a central theme of Thorn's youth: the pull of polar opposites - one representing the severe ecstasies of fundamental faith and the other, the pleasures stigmatized and yet glamorized by the church.
Similar ambiguities fuel the work of other artists to whom Thorn can be compared, from Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams all the way back to Robert Johnson and Hank Williams. What stands Thorn apart from this august company is how personally this dichotomy guided his formative years. In his seminal albums, particularly his landmark Mission Temple Fireworks Stand, his upbringing as the son of a Church of God pentecostal minister became a matter of record. What hasn't been clear, though, is the parallel impact of his father's brother, who showed up suddenly from California when Thorn was 12 years old. “He was a pimp back in the day,” Thorn says. “I had never met him before, so when he came back to Mississippi he had all this street wisdom and I started hanging around him as well as my father. My father was my mentor, but I learned a lot from my uncle too. Everything I've accomplished has been influenced by the time I spent around these two men.”
Thorn remains close to his father and his uncle today, closer than ever since his uncle has long abandoned his former livelihood. Yet the qualities that so strongly affected Thorn endure in the lyric to the title track, which honors them both; one for teaching him to love, and the other for teaching him to fight. For all the moral questions raised by the choices each man made, Thorn came to accept what they represented as essential and complementary. His embrace of opposites leads to a unity of spirit in Thorn's music, which is brought fully to life by his gift as a narrative writer.

This message rings throughout much of Pimps & Preachers, perhaps most intimately on “I Hope I'm Doing This Right.” The confession implicit in its title is tempered by Thorn's conviction that life is a full-color proposition. “The song says 'Hank Williams was in the darkness when he sang I Saw the Light. I believe there's good in everyone, I hope I'm doing this right',” Thorn reflects. “I was talking to somebody the other day about this and they said, 'As big an alcoholic and a screw-up as Hank Williams was, how did he ever write a song that beautiful?' And I said, 'He was able to write it because he was an alcoholic and a screw-up. Otherwise, he wouldn't have even recognized where the darkness and light were.”
Elsewhere on Pimps & Preachers, Thorn conveys this theme through brief but epic vignettes - parables, almost - in the tradition of his father's Biblical exegeses. “Love Scar” grew from a conversation Thorn had with a woman backstage at London's Royal Albert Hall shortly before he would open for Sting. He noticed that her shoulder bore a tattoo of an eye shedding a tear. When he asked what it meant, her answer was sadder and deeper than he had expected. “She told me about how she met a handsome guy and they had some drinks together,” Thorn recalls. “She had a one-night stand with him and got so distracted by his charm that she went out and got this tattoo because of his opening line when he had started to hit on her: 'If I could be a tear rolling down your cheek and die on your lips, my life would be complete.' Unfortunately, that tattoo is with her forever, even though he was gone the next day.”

Each track recounts its own story while clarifying and reinforcing Thorn's broader vision. The comic yet unsettlingly candid account of romantic opportunity lost too soon on “Nona Lisa,” the immeasurable intensity of love captured in the artfully offhand lyrics of “That's Life” (taken entirely from words spoken to Thorn by his mother), the assurances extended to all who suffer through uncertain times in “Better Days Ahead” - every moment on Pimps & Preachers speaks universally but with a fluency that stems from the earthy blues, haunted old-school country, and stripped-down urgency of the gospel music that surrounded Thorn throughout his Mississippi upbringing.

But Thorn's knack for using snapshots from everyday routine as the elements of this exquisite writing owes entirely to his distinctive abilities and commitment to linking these elements into a profession of mercy and forgiveness - ultimately, the real message of Pimps & Preachers. “Look, there's nothing wrong with songs about holding hands or sitting by the phone and waiting for a girl to call,” he says. “But I wrote songs like that when I was 15. I'm trying now to sing about things that mean something to me, for people who want something real, who not only want forgiveness but are willing to give it. Besides,” he concludes, bringing Pimps & Preachers back home. “If I came back to my dad or my uncle with songs like that now, they'd both kick my ass! So I'm still just trying to follow their lead.”

Pimps And Preachers is available on CD, limited deluxe CD+DVD (DVD contains a full live show in Birmingham, Alabama in 2005) and 2-LP (custom made Personal Vinyl Edition).

More items
Best Of Paul Thorn CD+MP3 € 6.00 Info
Too Blessed To Be Stressed CD € 5.90 Info
What The Hell Is Goin On? CD € 5.90 Info
Pimps And Preachers 2-LP (Personal Vinyl Edition) € 24.90 Info
Pimps And Preachers CD € 4.90 Info

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Pimps And Preachers
THORN, PAUL
Pimps And Preachers
CD+DVD Deluxe Edition
BLU DP0529
€ 9.90



CD
1. You're Not The Only One
2. Pimps & Preachers
3. Tequila Is Good For The Heart
4. Love Scar
5. Weeds In My Roses
6. Better Days Ahead
7. Ray Ann's Shoes
8. You Might Be Wrong
9. Buckskin Jones
10. I Hope I'm Doin' This Right
11. I Don't Like Half The Folks I Love
12. Nona Lisa
13. That's Life

DVD
The Best of the Paul Thorn Band live
Band Tunes:
1. Mood Ring
2. Heart With 4 Wheel Drive
3. Rocks
4. I Bet He Knows
5. Burn Down The Trailer Park
6. Lover's Vacation
7. Hammer And Nail
8. Every Little Bit Hurts
9. What Do You Take Me For
10. A Lot Of Good Reasons High
11. I Have A Good Day
12. Joanie The Jehovah Witness Stripper
13. Ain't Love Strange
14. Mission Temple Fireworks Stand
Acoustic Tunes:
15. If I Can Get Over Her
16. I Guess I'll Just Stay Married
"Fellow Americans" - a film by John Kane

DVD info
All songs mixed in 5.1 Surround Sound and stereo
Presented in letterbox format for viewing on standard or widescreen TVs.
Recorded live March 12, 2005 at Workplay, Birmingham, Alabama, USA