ALBUM OF THE MONTH:
Pimps and Preachers, by Paul Thorn
Paul Thorn is the Mark Twain of Americana. Possessing an endearing folksy charm, he fills his songs with a potent and intelligent wit. Thorn’s lyrics are typically self-depreciating yet hopeful. A fine example is “I Hope I’m Doing This Right.” After several verses of reflection on the circumstances of his life, Thorn concludes that he is on the right path with the telling line, “Hank Williams was in the darkness when he sang ‘I Saw the Light.’”
Thorn’s humorous side emerges on tracks like the gospel-tinged “Tequila Is Good for the Heart,” his remedy for heartbreak. “We’ve all got to die of something, it’s sad but it’s true,” he sings, “at least if I drown your memory I might not die over you.”
There are frequently religious references and overtones to Thorn’s songs, such as on “Pimps and Preachers,” the album’s title track. “My Daddy had a Cadillac, my uncle drove a Ford,” he sings, “one was satan’s angel, and one worked for the Lord.” Perhaps that is what I like about Thorn’s music; he has an appreciation for both perspectives and finds the mischievousness middle ground.
Thorn’s secret weapon is his band, a crack unit that is one of the most unheralded groups in rock and roll. They deliver a muscular sound, immaculately produced to create a balanced sound.
In the end, however, it is Thorn’s infectious optimism that shines the brightest. It’s the perfect elixir for a bad day. As Thorn declares in “You’re Not the Only One” — “Life don’t come with a guarantee, you only get so many heartbeats; it’s such a blessing to be alive, whatever happens I’m satisfied.” Amen.
Audio Download: Paul Thorn, “Pimps and Preachers”
Change Your Mind, Rich Pagano & the SugarCane Cups (from the self-released Rich Pagano & the SugarCane Cups)
You’d likely never guess that Rich Pagano plays in one of the country’s best Beatles cover bands. Then again, you might when you hear his solo album. It’s chock full of the smart and nuanced pop songwriting that was a hallmark of that other band. While it is easy to get entranced by ballads like “Goodbye Anna,” I’m drawn to this unabashed rock and roll number. Heck, even John and Paul were known to cut loose with a little Chuck Berry or Little Richard now and then.
Audio Download: Rich Pagano & the SugarCane Cups, “Change Your Mind”
Dirty Dirty Blonde, Luke Doucet (from the Six Shooter Records release Steel City Trawler)
Sloppy enough to be playful, sharp enough to know these are talented musicians. Doucet won’t overwhelm you with guitar pyrotechnics but make no mistake, the boy can play. The Stones-esque rawness is intoxicating. “What you see is not the girl that you get, she may be yellow underneath but she’s a bottle brunette.”
Keep On Letting Me Down, Mic Harrison & the High Score (from the Real Much Records release Great Commotion)
There’s a lot to be said for doing your own thing. After stints with Superdrag and the late, great V-Roys, Mic Harrison has hit his grove with his own brand of satisfying rock and roll.
Audio Download: Mic Harrison, “Keep On Letting Me Down”
No Explanations, The Sideshow Tragedy (from the self-released The Sideshow Tragedy)
This Austin trio makes quite a racket – and that’s a good thing. Nathan Singleton’s National steel guitar blazes a fiery trail while bandmates pound out a raucous rhythm.
Awhile back I created a special playlist of break-up songs. Looks like I’ve got another one for the list… “No explanations girl, I’m a simple man but there is nothing here for you to understand. You just need someone to hold on to but I don’t have time, find your own way and I’ll find mine.”
Audio Download: The Sideshow Tragedy, “No Explanations”
Passengers, Ruby James (from the self-released Happy Now)
LA singer-songwriter James found a spiritual home in Austin Texas. Charlie and Will Sexton, the musical co-conspirators on her latest release, kept the focus where it belonged – on James’ remarkable voice. A stunning mix of honey and smoke, it seems effortless… and immensely enjoyable.
Audio Download: Ruby James, “Passengers”
Cry One More Time, Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles (from the self-released Live Singles)
Anyone who has seen Borges and crew will attest that they put on a tremendous live show. Now everyone can get a taste with this outstanding Listen closely and you can tell that Borges was battling laryngitis the night the show was recorded. She and the band miss nary a beat, making one appreciate their live chops even more.
Audio Download: Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, “Cry One More Time”
Sundown, Luke Doucet (from the Six Shooter Records release Steel City Trawler)
Yes, it’s the Gordon Lightfoot song. Doucet and crew keep a touch of the easy-going feel but scuff it up enough to make it a garage rock gem.
Sweet Chariot, My Jerusalem (from the One Little Indian release Gone for Good)
My Jerusalem plays music slightly soulful with instrumentation somewhat symphonic. When you hear singer Jeff Klein’s wail, however, you’ll know that it is entirely rock and roll.
I Can Tell, Mic Harrison & the High Score (from the Real Much Records release Great Commotion)
“I can tell by the way you’re drinking, you won’t lay down in my arms tonight. I can tell by the way you’re drinking, someone someplace else is on your mind.” Another gem for the country music “she done me wrong” catalog…
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Mystery Road, Bob Walkenhorst (Live at Molloy’s Irish Pub on 27 July 2005)
“There are two stories of life that contain all the facts, one is told to your face, the other is told to your back. Which one to believe, well that’s all up to you, also to decide which one will come true…”
Audio Download: Bob Walkenhorst, “Mystery Road”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.