JACKSON, Miss. – Paul Thorn, a roots-rock musician and Tupelo native, released his first-ever gospel album earlier this year. Mississippi Public Broadcasting was there every step of the way as the album came together and culminated with a live concert. Watch the premiere of the documentary “Paul Thorn: The Making Of …” at 8 p.m. May 7, followed by the concert “Paul Thorn’s Mission Temple Fireworks Revival” at 8:30 p.m. on MPB Television.
The creation of the album “Don’t Let The Devil Ride” included recording sessions in 2017 at Sam Phillips Studios in Memphis, Tennessee; FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Preservation Hall in New Orleans, and back to Tupelo. Joining Thorn and his band were The Blind Boys of Alabama, The McCrary Sisters, Bonnie Bishop and the horns section of Preservation Hall Jazz Band. All of that star power, along with a live concert in Franklin, Tennessee, after production, was too much for MPB to pass on.
“To capture such an exclusive experience in recording a record at these legendary studios with such amazing artists was more than appealing to MPB Television,” said MPB’s Taiwo Gaynor, producer of the shows. “This is not your typical gospel record. The music has a rich dose of raw grittiness, which is inspired from the rhythm and blues era of gospel music.”
Thorn grew up the son of a Pentecostal preacher and listened to gospel music all the time. However, he’s recorded only secular music for more than 20 years.
“I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to do a gospel record, and so we just decided that this was the time to do it,” Thorn said. “It’s a homage to my upbringing ‘cause when I was growing up, I sang gospel music. We didn’t have rock ’n’ roll records in our house, we had gospel records. Going to church, singing with the black people, singing with the white people, I learned how to play music. And, it’s in my heart. It’s from my beginning. It’s my roots. It’s my foundation, and it had to be done.”
The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts and continues to hover in the top five spots. Thorn and others specifically chose gospel songs that were not very popular.
“Everybody likes “I’ll Fly Away” and “Amazing Grace” but those songs have been recorded into the ground. We wanted to find some obscure, really powerful songs that hit us,” Thorn said.
MPB’s concert program -- “Paul Thorn’s Mission Temple Fireworks Revival”-- features 12 of 14 songs from the album.
American Public Television will distribute the concert program to approximately 200 public broadcasting stations coast to coast starting in July. APT has also agreed to pick up two other MPB original programs – “Fannie Lou Hamer: Stand Up” (producers Taiwo Gaynor, John Gibson and Edie Greene) and “Melvin Williams: Down Home Gospel” (producers Taiwo Gaynor and Bridget Fleury).
MPB Television Director John Gibson is the executive producer of both Paul Thorn programs, which were sponsored in part by Lagunitas Brewing Company.
“This is like a dream come true as far as everything that came together for this gospel record,” Thorn said. “It’s really a thrill because my mom and dad are getting old, and they’ve heard a copy of it, and they like it. And that makes them happy when they listen to it. It’s just something that had to be done, and it got done. Praise the Lord, it’s here.”
For more information about Mississippi Public Broadcasting, visit www.mpbonline.org.
American Public Television is the national distributor for this program.