Record Review 

It may be coincidental, but it's still significant that Paul Thorn was born in Tupelo, Miss., the home of a young truck driver named Elvis Presley. The young Thorn soaked up many of the same influences that inspired the King: backwoods gospel, country, Southern blues, R&B. So it's no surprise that he throws a Presley reference our way in "Even Heroes Die." When Thorn rasps, "Shooting TVs with groupies in the jungle room, he had become a parody of himself," it's with sadness, not anger.

It's that sense of sympathy that permeates the rugged Mission Temple Fireworks Stand, the singer/songwriter's third record. With a voice that falls between the gruff bellow of Gregg Allman and the gritty swamp croon of Lowell George, Thorn dissects the crumbling heart of America using his religious background (he's the son of a Church of God minister) as a starting point. The photo on the inner sleeve, depicting a devil puppet scooping a mini-replica of a nun out of a cereal bowl, gives you an idea of his off-center vision.

If this makes Thorn sound dour, bitter or sarcastic, well, he's not. The music shimmers with a tough, rootsy Little Feat/Stones shuffle. His soulful, boiling slow funk and taut folk create an edgy alt-country/rock that engulfs you like the Mississippi mud.

Paul Thorn plays the Variety Playhouse Sun., Dec. 8.

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