Novita' Blue Rose: Paul Thorn – Statesboro Revue

Grazie alla tedesca BlueRose, possiamo apprezzare una delle più belle realtà della scena southern-rock Usa, gli Statesboro Revue, ed il nuovo album della rivelazione cantautorale di Tupelo, Mississippi, Paul Thorn con il suo ultimo album arricchito da un DVD con materiale live ed acustico inedito.

The Statesboro Revue – Different Kind Of Light

- The Statesboro Revue – Different Kind Of Light Band rivelazione di Stewart Mann che sembra in grado di ridefinire il rock and roll, con robuste iniezioni di blues e country, le vere e più autentiche sonorità roots del southern-rock contemporaneo! Per capire l'importanza e l'ambizione del progetto basti pensare che il nome della band è stato ispirato da un brano reso celebre da Willie McTell ripreso in molte esibizioni live dagli Allman Brothers. Quindi racidi blues e sudiste di prima qualita' tanto che del gruppo si è accorto uno dei piu' importanti talent scout d'oltreoceano, quel David Z's (Prince, Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Govt Mule, Billy Idol, Fine Young Cannibals) che può essere considerato il Guru della Southern Music in ogni sua sfacettatura.

The Statesboro Revue was formed in March of 2007 after lead singer/primary songwriter Stewart Mann returned from a stint in Los Angeles. Too long so say he. After 7 years of trying his hand in Atlanta, Nashville, Austin, and Los Angeles, the native south Texan decided it was time to come back home and return to his roots. So he filled up a uhaul and hit the road never to look back, the kind of guy he is. "The past is what brings us to the present and the future, so treat it as if it's taken you somewhere, not as if it were still here." I would venture to guess that little line has multiple meanings behind it.

On to the band name, which comes from a Blind Willie McTell tune that was covered by The Allman Brothers, who just so happen to be Mann's all-time favorite band. The Revue, as opposed to the commonly misused review, derived from a night when Mann found each of his band members entertaining folks as if each were a member of a circus...we'll just leave that up to the imagination.

After recording a debut album as Stewart Mann and the Statesboro Revue, with the help of Jacob Sciba (Govt Mule, Taj Mahal, etc) at none other than Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studios, the band quickly hit the road, and hit it hard. Playing over 250 shows in 2007 alone (well 9 months anyway), they started turning heads everywhere they played. Playing anywhere and for anyone, they quickly earned the reputation as the hardest working, hardest playing band out there.

After selling over 15,000 records with little to no distribution, Mann was bound and determined to make more waves in 2008. After rotating a few band members, Stewart came across lead/rhythm guitar player Todd Laningham, who Mann calls the "most tasteful tunesmith I know." Already intact was drummer Beau Wadley, who lived on Mann's couch for 6 months after "taking an extended break" from Texas A&M, where Mann spent 2 years prior to his Nashville move. Bass player Rob Alton shortly followed, by way of Boston's esteemed Berklee School of Music. Lead guitar/rhythm guitar player Will Knaak is the latest addition to The Statesboro Revue, and it's with open arms. "Will Knaak commands an audience that's for sure, and between the two of us we feel like we can take down the world, in the most modest way possible." No need to clarify, after seeing them I believe it wholeheartedly.

After playing 300 shows in 2008, show 301 led them to what could be their ticket to a successful future. The Chuggin Monkey on 6th street on a Monday night was the setting, and little did the guys know their playing would bring an important someone in from off the streets. Rose Melillo, whose name has been relatively obscure aside from with industry people up until this point, happened to be in town and out and about on a random night. Lucky for Stewart and the guys, she was listening as a hobo ran off with her pizza. Distraught and needing a drink to settle her nerves she says she heard Stewart's voice from across the street. After stopping in for a listen, she left not expecting to see Stewart again. Shortly thereafter, however, she heard the same voice again inside another bar. Stewart had taken a break and jumped up on stage with friend Sam Sliva across the street from where he was playing. Fate one might ask? Stewart began talking to Rose and the rest is history so they say.

After a few amazing showcases Stewart and the boys are in the midst of signing with Rose and good friends, A&R guru Patrick Clifford (RCA, etc), and Grammy-winning mega producer David Z's (Prince, Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Govt Mule, Billy Idol, Fine Young Cannibals, etc) new label venture (yet to be named as of press time).

With their interweaving of rock, blues, and country, Stewart's innate ability to write songs that touch and move the soul, and musicians that can hang with the best of them, The Statesboro Revue are bound and determined to make 2009 their year. With a live show that reminds of a cross between the Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, Black Crowes, Al Green and Van Morrison; equal parts dynamic and soulful vocals, energetic showmanship, delightful musicianship, moving lyricism and melody for days, mixed in with jam band like grooves, this band is the best of everything that existed in the late 60s early 70s. Not since the Black Crowes in the early 90s has a band come out of the woodworks with such piss and fire and the arsenal to back it up. This is one hell of a band."

Paul Thorn – Pimps And Preachers

Il pubblico internazionale si è accorto di questo nuovo cantore - cantautore nell'anno appena trascorso per le sue innumerevoli apparizioni live che lo hanno portato ad aprire i tours di Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, e John Prine tra gli altri. Ma per Paul è finalmente arrivato il momento di brillare di luce propria e, che dire, la luce che emana è quasi accecante. Nella sua voce c'è rabbia e smarrimento ma anche una ricerca di redenzione, nel suo stile la chitarra grida e supplica creando emozioni contrastanti. Insomma un poeta dei nostri giorni pronto a regalare al nostro spirito tutta la sua genialita'. Non è il suo album di esordio ma penso possa essere considerato quello della maturita'. Imperdibile.

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.”