Photos by Gene Lazo
Elmore had an interesting conversation with the peripatetic Paul Thorn, whom we last saw at a traditional concert venue, and again at sea. Currently, Thorn has taken the “road warrior” thing to a new level, and travels around the country doing Airstream meet-and-greets between his more conventional appearances, not the least of which will be at the Americana Music Association convention in Nashville later this week.
“We just celebrated the 20th anniversary of our first album Hammer and Nail, and we kind of wanted to do something to commemorate all that time,” Thorn told Elmore. “At most of our shows we’re doing the Hammer and Nail album front to back, and we’re also pulling around an Airstream trailer.” Thorn has never taken the beaten path to anything, so this trailer isn’t his version of a tour bus, no.
“The trailer was completely gutted and filled up with my junk,” Thorn said. He crams in about 25 people and hangs out with them for an hour and a half or more, playing the Hammer and Nail album, telling stories and walking them through his memorabilia. “It’s not like a typical meet-and-greet where you stand with the artist for two and a half seconds and get your picture taken, it’s a hangout thing,” Thorn explained.
One of my favorite old Thorn songs is “Burn Down the Trailer Park,” in which an Airstream figures prominently. “I got a can of gas, and I’m a dan-ger-ous man,” he sings, but times have changed and now sponsor Lagunitas Beer figures more prominently than gasoline. Well, whatever fuels your trailer.
Thorn, whose earlier album Pimps and Preachers hearkened back to his youth with his preacher father and his pimp uncle, presents himself—honestly—as the Common Man. “What I am and what I do revolves around ordinary people, regular people who live in trailers and who work in factories,” he said. “I can write about all that ‘cuz I’ve lived it. Every time I see a trailer I say, ‘I know what that is like.’ There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’ll always be that kind of person.”
That said, after a few early fits and starts—he failed the sixth grade—Thorn has had success not only as a musician but as a middleweight boxer, and a painter. His works will be exhibited at Americana, at InDo, and soon he’ll be on PBS. Thorn has just finished a gospel album with the Blind Boys of Alabama, the McCrary Sisters and Bonnie Bishop as guests, and PBS will air a film about the making of the album in the first quarter of 2018. Tony Magee, owner of Lagunitas Beer, had faith and made the documentary possible. By that time, Thorn will be gearing up for the Cayamo Cruise in early February, while the Airstream rests in the garage, waiting for the next thorny adventure.
For tour dates, click HERE
For Americana performances click HERE