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Paul Thorn: Too Blessed to be Stressed

Southern rock star Paul Thorn's newest album, "Too Blessed to Be Stressed," marks a new direction for the singer and songwriter.

"Every song on the record is some sort of positive affirmation to make people feel better and put listeners in a better state of mind," Thorn says in his Mississippi drawl. "That was my intention."

Released last year, the album's title is taken from a phrase he learned from one of the women who attended the same church he did as a child.

"I'd ask, 'How you doin', sister?' And I'd hear back 'too blessed to be stressed,' " Thorn says during a telephone interview. "I always liked that. It's a positive phrase. If you look at your life closely, usually there's more good than there is bad."

Thorn and his four-piece band — Bill Hinds on lead guitars, Michael Graham on keys and synthesizers, bassist Ralph Friedrichsen and drummer Jeffrey Perkins — will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 30, at The Rogue Theatre, 143 SE H St., Grants Pass. Tickets cost $20, $25 and $30 and can be purchased online at www.roguetheatre.com, by calling 541-471-1316, or at the door. The show is open to ages 21 and older.

"I've played with the same band members for 20 years," Thorn says. "Yes, ma'am. We've been playing together for a long time. We're from different places. Me and the keyboard player are from Tupelo, the drummer and the bass player live in Nashville, and my lead guitar player lives in Montgomery, Alabama."

"Too Blessed" marks Thorn's 12th album, the newest in a string that dates back to 1997. 

"In the past, I've told stories that were mostly inspired by my own life," he says. "The songs on this album express more universal truths."

Such as his humorous poke at personal foibles on "I Backslide on Friday," his wider swipe aimed at today's infatuation with celebrities and consumerism on "Mediocrity is King," and his rocking celebration of the simple joys of life on "Everything is Gonna Be All Right."

Thorn says he doesn't think he could have written songs like these if it hadn't been for his 2012 "What the Hell is Goin' On?" On "What the Hell," he took a break from himself and covered songs by other artists. Like his 2010 "Pimps & Preachers," it was among the most played albums on American radio. Thorn followed those successes with a hit version of "Doctor My Eyes" on the 2014 compilation "Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne," featuring Grammy winners Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Indigo Girls, Lucinda Williams, Keb' Mo,' Ben Harper and Don Henley.

"I could write a song every day," Thorn says. "But I can't write a good song every day. I have to get 10 or 12 songs I feel good about to get a record out. Songs are like Chia Pets, you put a little water on 'em every day and eventually they've got a little hair on their head."

Thorn's belief in the inherent goodness of the human heart and his desire to lift listeners' spirits goes back to his Southern gospel roots, when he began singing as a youngster in churches his father preached in.

Blacks and whites attended his father's church. The white people sang gospel like it was country music, and the black people sang gospel like it was rhythm and blues, Thorn says. He learned to sing a mix of those styles. 

Thorn began writing songs when he was 12 and worked as a solo performer. Country artists like Ronnie Milsap, Toby Keith, Sawyer Brown and Tanya Tucker recorded his songs before he ever released an album. 

At 17, Thorn met songwriter Billy Maddox, who became his friend and mentor. It would take several detours — working in a furniture factory, boxing, jumping out of airplanes — until Thorn committed to a songwriter's life. 

"What's working really well for me is goin' out and tourin' with my band, gettin' to know y'all, I'm lookin' forward to it," he says.

Paul Thorn and the longtime members of his band will perform Southern rock at The Rogue Theatre. Photo courtesy of Blind Ambition Management