ALBUM REVIEW: Paul Thorn "What The Hell Is Goin' On?"

Wisconsin born and Mississippi-raised Paul Thorn has a decidedly unique voice that offers the perfect blend of earthy blues and gravelly southern rock. The artist is currently riding a wave of success following his highest Billboard charting album - 2010's "Pimps And Preachers." However, his new album will be no less controversial as the cover to "What The Hell Is Goin' On?" is easily one of the most interesting and provocative album covers of 2012. Nevertheless, it's the music that matters most, and this album is an barnstorming, hell-raising, unqualified success.
The fun begins with the soulful and upbeat "Don't Let Me Down Again," which is performed with a comfortable ease that any musician would envy, but the album really sparks with the insanely memorable "Snake Farm." Radio program managers should take notice of this killer cut.

Thorn's unusual swagger is showcased on "Shelter Me," and some of his confidence may come from the fact that he was once a professional boxer (even fighting world champion Roberto Duran in a televised match). The gospel-infused, sing-a-long track "Shed  A Little Light" is the album's biggest surprise and offers a pitch-perfect vocal performance. The quirky "Small Town Talk" is another surprise that offers thoughtful lyrics.

The title cut "What The Hell Is Going On?" is a cocksure song that boldly delivers on the promise of the album cover. Likewise, the cut offers terrific instrumentation and a memorable melody. However, the best song on the CD is the bluesy and melodic "Wrong Number." This song does everything right and shows Thorn's connection with traditional blues. Concert audiences and radio listeners will eat this song up faster than homemade peach ice cream at the annual church picnic.

"Bull Mountain Ridge" has much of the same charm of "Wrong Number," and the cut offers interesting elements that mix blues with outlaw country. Paul Thorn could have a country radio chart hit with "Bull Mountain Ridge." The best song on the album is saved the next to last with the truly lovely "She's Got A Crush On Me." The light instrumentation and Thorn's nuanced vocal performance make this track a standout moment. However, Paul Thorn rightly decides to end the album with a more upbeat cut that is a smile-inducing, toe-tapping musical treat titled "Take My Love With You."

"What The Hell Is Goin' On?" is a 48-minute extravaganza that carefully showcases a well-rounded musician in top form. Interestingly, Paul Thorn's album cover looks more like a punk rock album and prominently features the devil in several places. However, this may be a shrewd move: You see, the idiom "the devil is in the details" is truly fitting for an album that offers a thought provoking and mysterious cover that houses an equally interesting, complex and eventually fulfilling bluesy masterwork.