Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Back Roads Music

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Back Roads Music

Article excerpt

Mission Temple Fireworks Stand, by Paul Thorn. Back Porch.

Miles and miles of two-lane blacktop crisscross the rural South, forming a web of connections among myriad small towns with declining populations and evaporating economic bases. The 2000 film O Brother, Where Act Thou? demonstrated that the Depression-era rural South was a place every bit as mythic as the ancient Aegean, and its soundtrack sparked a surge in popularity for what has come to be called "'Americana" music. But what of the postmodern, post-capitalist South? What mythic portals and spiritual wellsprings can be plumbed amid the unincorporated villages, the mill hills, the hollers, the trailer parks. and the few remaining farm communities that dot those two-lane blacktop roads today? And the churches! We sometimes joke that the country in which I reside has more Baptists than people. And let's not forget the Pentecostals out on the edge of town!

Singer-songwriter Paul Thorn's CD Mission Temple Fireworks Stand is a deep, rhythmic, moving tour through the back roads of "white trash" spiritually'. The title song is born of Thorn's observation that Pentecostal tent revivals and roadside fireworks stands often use the same kind of tent. So, Thorn thought, why not combine the two? -Mission-Temple Fireworks Stand," he explains in the liner notes, "though not a literal place is a very tangible place where my current spiritual perspective resides." Imagine the art of Howard Finster set to music and you're there.

Thorn, the son of a Pentecostal preacher who grew up singing and playing tambourine on the Mississippi sawdust trail, has developed a musical style that combines folk, blues country, gospel, R&B, and rock and roll. The first song on the CD, "Everybody Looks Good at The Starting Line," employs a slow, steady, driving rock beat to carry the theme of perseverance implicit in the song's title. The next song, "Rise Up," picks up the pace slightly and adds some gospel and R&B inflections. It tells the story of a woman finding strength to leave a hopeless marriage and strut "a new life" and is an anthem of self-empowerment. The next song, "Downtown Babylon," offers a sardonic and reflective critique of big-city pretentiousness and is followed by the title song, a rollicking gospel-blues which, by its juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane--or the sublime and the ridiculous--reminds us that authentic spirituality is dangerous. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.