The son of a preacher man, Mississippi-raised Paul Thorn spent much of his childhood in church, participating in multiple weekly services with his father as well as at neighboring African American congregations, where he became entranced with the music whose infectious spirit is captured on the new album.
Last week Thorn dropped his new album Don’t Let the Devil Ride, a collection of soulful songs originally cut by black southern gospel groups that features guests Blind Boys of Alabama, the McCrary Sisters, the Preservation Hall Jazz Horns, and Bonnie Bishop.
The album was recorded at three temples of sound: the Sam C. Phillips Recording studio, whose namesake gave another son of Tupelo his start; at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, where Thorn worked as a songwriter for legendary producer Rick Hall early in his career; and at Preservation Hall, where horn players from the celebrated jazz venue lent songs a New Orleans vibe.
The new release marks Thorn’s first time recording gospel music, after a dozen albums in roots-rock mode, though his upbringing has previously been reflected in his creation of a body of strikingly original songs. In his own songwriting, Thorn often addresses the foibles of human relationships, although he doesn’t favor the sacred over the profane. As an accomplished painter, former professional boxer, and seasoned skydiver, Thorn has never shied away from new challenges, but cutting a gospel record was just like going home.
One of the standout tracks on the album is Thorn’s spirited take on the Mississippi Fred McDowell blues classic “You Got To Move”. Today Glide is excited to premiere a video for the track, which combines live concert footage with behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the album in the legendary studios it was recorded in (Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis, FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, and Preservation Hall in New Orleans). For this song Thorn enlisted Nashville’s McCrary Sisters to lend a buoyant feel to with their angelic backing vocals. With Thorn’s vocals and the musical prowess of his band, the song feels both spiritual and laid back in a jazzy New Orleans way. Ultimately Thorn gives the tune a positive, uplifting tone that feels like it could accompany a sunny afternoon of lounging on a porch with a cocktail in your hand and a smile on your face.
Reflecting on the decision to record the tune, Thorn has this to say:
“I used to sing this song in church while I was growing up. The best part about this song is that the words can mean anything. No one knows what “you’ve got to move even means.” Does it mean you’re fixing to die, dance in the holy spirit? I love that you can make it mean whatever you want it to mean. To me it’s saying that you got to get up and do something, reach for what you’re looking for, work for it.”
Paul Thorn’s Don’t Let the Devil Ride is out now. For more music and tour dates visit paulthorn.com.
Photo credit: Lee Harrelson