January 27, 2011 10:52:00 AM
Paul Thorn has a wicked wit, and he''s not afraid to use it. The unorthodox Mississippi musician, who has played venues from London''s Royal Albert Hall to Columbus'' Princess Theater, will put it all on display Saturday in an Internet concert beginning at 8 p.m.
"We''ve been working for months putting it together; we''ve spent a boatload of our own money to make this thing happen," said Thorn Wednesday from his home near Tupelo. "This is going to be an all-out show, a very professional, multi-camera shoot with great sound. I want to give people a real high-quality product."
The pay-per-view web event streaming live from Muscle Shoals, Ala., will feature a hour solo set from the songwriter, plus a full show with the band.
The cost? "Only $6.99. Not much more than a Happy Meal," laughed the artist, whose 2010 "Pimps and Preachers" made Alternate Root''s Top 10 Albums of the Year and landed in the top 20 on the Americana Music Association''s Top 100 Albums of the Year, just after Robert Plant and before Los Lobos.
Saturday''s near three-hour concert in front of an already sold-out live audience will also be filmed and edited for a new DVD release later this year.
Boxer to balladeer
Thorn''s thumbnail biography is a remarkable read. The singing son of a Pentecostal preacher, this former furniture factory worker and Mid South middleweight boxing champ battled Roberto Duran on national TV. While playing the pizza parlors of Tupelo, he was "discovered" by record exec Miles Copeland, who sent him off to open for Sting in England. Thorn hasn''t put down his guitar since.
Through nine albums and frequent nationwide touring, the entertainer has introduced his followers to a parade of quirky characters who populate the tent revivals, trailer parks and street corners of his fertile memory and imagination. His original repertoire, alternately bawdy and beautiful, has put him on tour with heavyweights including John Prine, Bonnie Raitt and John Hiatt.
Push and pull
"Pimps and Preachers," Thorn''s ninth and most heralded album to date, pays tribute to his "two greatest mentors" -- his father, the preacher, and his uncle, the pimp. Although the uncle long ago put that part of his life behind him, he influenced the paradoxical well his nephew''s songs spring from.
"I don''t glorify that, but the time I spent with him when I was a kid, he taught me a lot about the dark side of life and to be prepared for the wolf in sheeps'' clothing," explained Thorn, who co-writes with Billy Maddox.
Saturday''s material will include plenty of "chestnuts fans always come to hear," said the singer, but most material will come from "Pimps and Preachers" and "A Long Way from Tupelo" (2008), both released on the Perpetual Obscurity label.
For Thorn, delivering the goods for his audiences seems elemental to his joy in music. He admits he studies many of the great entertainers.
"Probably my favorite of all time was Dean Martin. I have the whole things on DVD and watch all the time," he shared. "He made everybody in the room feel like he was talking to them, and to me there''s very few entertainers who do that any more. It''s usually like, ''Hey, everybody, look at me!'' I want it to be like ''Hey, everybody, look at you.''
"People like to be embraced and like to feel they''re part of something," he continued. "I''m gonna give everything I got, do the best I can, to make sure everybody feels a part of this."
How to watch
Tickets for the web concert can be purchased at www.paulthorn.com/ppv. Ticket holders will receive an e-mail with instructions, a link to the live video stream, and a reminder e-mail the day of the show.
If for any reason a viewer is unable to watch the entire concert ("Your mom calls, the cops break up your party"), it will be archived for ticket holders to watch as many times as they want through March 2. To ensure sufficient bandwidth for a glitch-free viewing experience, the number of tickets sold will be limited.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.