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Former boxer-turned-musician
delivers a knockout

Paul Thorn - A Long Way From Tupelo
(Perpetual Obscurity Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 18, 2008
Paul Thorn

Review by Tony Bonyata

Despite the fact that the title of Paul Thorn's latest album is A Long Way From Tupelo (where this professional boxer-turned-musician hails from), the dozen songs that fill this record are a heck of a lot closer to this northern Mississippi city than one might think.

Tupelo is probably best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley, and similar to Elvis' cross-pollination of country, R&B, gospel, blues and rock & roll, Thorn's latest also incorporates these styles in perhaps the strongest, most cohesive effort of his music career, which began back in '97 with his A&M Records debut Hammer & Nail.

With a commanding, husky vocal delivery and taught guitar-work, the 44 year-old musician and his band run through the boozy, bluesy number "I'm Still Here," which features a rousing harmonica performance from '80s pop star Huey Lewis, while the stout title track is an out-and-out rocker that shows much of the fight he must've had back when he was pitted against former world champion Roberto Duran for a nationally televised match back in the day.

The son of Pentecostal preacher, Thorn grew up performing in his father's revivals, and this joyous gospel from his past manages to shine down on a good number of songs on this album - such as "Starvin' For Your Kisses," "What Have You Done To Lift Somebody Up," "A Woman To Love," where Thorn's gruff, impassioned vocal delivery sounds similar to that of Joe Cocker, as well as the heavenly harmonies on the funky chicken-shack blues of "Crutches."

Thorn also shows his command of Americana roots music on the lovely acoustic folk number "When The Long Road Ends" as well as the harrowing balladry of "Burning Blue."

Although he's been recording and performing his own music for the last decade Thorn has yet to breakthrough to a more mainstream audience. With A Long Way From Tupelo not only cracking the Billboard Top 200 chart (the first of eight albums to do so) along with recent appearances on Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and NPR's World Cafe, it appears that this could be the closest thing to a true knockout since he laid down his boxing gloves many years ago.

Watch Paul Thorn - "A Long Way From Tupelo" video

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