Tupelo, Mississippi’s Paul Thorn was a prizefighter and sky diver before becoming a rootsy singer/songwriter. As a boxer, Thorn once fought against Roberto Duran and as a musician, he has toured and collaborated with Sting, Paul Carrack, Joe Diffie, Tanya Tucker, Ronnie Milsap, and Carole King to name a scant few.
Thorn is the son of a Pentecostal preacher; gospel music was in his blood from birth and has remained a life-long passion. Music wasn’t his first choice as a profession, however, boxing was. He fought professionally in the 1980s. After retiring, he embraced music, but continued to pay the rent with a day job — until music entrepreneur and manager Miles Copeland heard him play a show in a Tupelo pizzeria. Copeland and signed him to A&M. His debut album, Hammer and Nail was issued in 1997. Thorn moved to Copeland’s Ark 21 for 1999’s Ain’t Love Strange.
A formidable guitarist, Thorn decided to showcase his chops and the rock & roll side of his roots music on the celebrated Mission Temple Fire Works Stand in 2002. His took on the weighty subject of love for 2004’s Are You with Me?, using a more stripped-down style of production and R&B-based grooves to illustrate his material.
Thorn took a four-year break from recording, though he still gigged — if not incessantly, then abundantly — in the United States and Europe. When he did return, on 2008’s A Long Way from Tupelo, he’d melded all of his previous explorations holistically into a resonant Americana with his gritty, expressive, soulful voice atop it all. In 2010 he released the humorously yet poignantly titled, Pimps and Preachers on his own Perpetual Obscurity label, and followed it in 2012 with his first all-covers collection, What the Hell Is Goin’ On? in 2012; the album featured Thorn’s versions of tunes by Rick Danko, Allen Toussaint, Donnie Fritts, Lindsey Buckingham, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and others.