Paul Thorn,
Are You With Me?
(Back Porch, 2004)

Paul Thorn's music used to be so passionate. Hammer & Nail, his debut, and 2002's Mission Temple Fireworks Stand are terrific CDs that combine roots rock, blues, sad balladry, great hooks and intelligent songwriting. Unfortunately, Thorn's latest, Are You With Me, disappoints -- especially because I wanted to love it so much.

Are You With Me? doesn't live up to any of its predecessors because Thorn has gotten away from making the music he does best. While I love artists who break the mold in an attempt to stay fresh, Thorn's latest falls flat because Are You With Me? is more blue-eyed soul than blues, and there is little or no rock 'n' roll to beef it up. Most of the disc's songs are about relationships, a typical R&B topic, in lieu of the usual philosophical, and sometimes humorous, subject matter he liberally spices with religious imagery.

It's not that Are You With Me? is a bad album, because it isn't. It's just not nearly as interesting or dynamic as all of Thorn's previous CDs. Everything is well produced, well played and well sung, but if Thorn wants to do R&B in the future, I suggest following the earthier sounds of the late Wilson Pickett in lieu of smoother-sounding soul men such as Al Green and Sam Cooke. His voice has more in common with Pickett than either of those soul crooners.

by Charlie Ricci
13 May 2006

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