20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Rd, Cincinnati, OH
doors 7pm, show 8pm, Buy Tickets
Don’t Let the Devil Ride, Paul Thorn’s collection of soulful songs originally recorded by black southern gospel groups, was co-produced by Billy Maddox and Colin Linden and recorded in 3 legendary locations: Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis, FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, and Preservation Hall in New Orleans. Don’t Let The Devil Ride features contributions from the Blind Boys of Alabama, The McCrary Sisters, the Preservation Hall Jazz Horns and Bonnie Bishop.
After a dozen roots-rock records, Paul Thorn reclaims his past by celebrating the first music he was ever exposed to. Don’t Let the Devil Ride combines strong influences stemming from Paul’s life experiences and his earliest musical influence: gospel. Thorn spent his youth singing in his father’s Pentecostal church. But his most memorable musical experiences were at an African American branch of his father’s church, the Okolona Sunrise Church of Prophecy. “There might be ten people playing the tambourine, but the rhythm was locked in, and they’d let me play bass. I loved the Appalachian gospel of my parents’ church, but it was a treat to play with those musicians.” It’s a good thing the music he heard there moved him, because he was forbidden to listen to popular music.
As a teen, Thorn acquired two records – by Elton John and Huey Lewis – but hid them in his closet so his father wouldn’t find them. He got away with his un-churchlike ways until the day he was “disfellowshipped” by his father and the deacons when they discovered Paul had slept with his girlfriend. After stints in a chair factory, the National Guard, and as a boxer (including a match with Roberto Duran), Paul’s music career was jump-started when he met Billy Maddox, who led him to write for the legendary Rick Hall, owner of FAME Studios, where Thorn cut his first demos. So, in another way, this album is about Thorn returning to where he began.
Many tracks on this record are lesser-known gospel chestnuts released by small Mississippi and Alabama labels in the late 1950s-70s and are typical of the sound that was heard on local radio stations or tentside revivals in that era. One exception is the most well-known track on the album, the O’Jays’ famous single “Love Train.” But it perfectly frames the album’s theme of love and inclusion. “This is the culmination of my whole life in music, coming back to my gospel roots,” says Thorn about Don’t Let the Devil Ride. “My message on this record is ‘let’s get together’ – I want to help lighten your load and make you smile.”