There’s no one else like Paul Thorn, a walking contradiction of saint and sinner, boxer and poet, tough guy and sensitive soul, Mississippi belter and acoustic guitarist. They’re all gathered here on Never Too Late to Call, his 12th album, held together with an honest sense of his shortcomings, an insistent moral compass, and a healthy dose of country funk.
The album opens with the quiet fingerpicking of “Two Tears of Joy,” a chance for Thorn to preach the gospel of gratitude to his family and his god, thankful that the “mercy they’ve shown me has made me wanna be a better man.” It closes with the Ole Miss–inspired “Holy Hottie Toddy,” a hard-partying anthem about loving everybody right now, celebrating the glorious mess we’re in, because “life goes by so fast you better not blink/ You might not have as much time as you think.”
In between, there’s an unsent letter to his sister (“Never Too Late to Call”), an aching confessional (“What I Could Do”), a string-snapping homage to James Brown (“Sapalo”), a keyboard-rocking devotional (“Here We Go”), and a door-slamming duet with his wife that tests the waters between giving up and staying put (“Breaking Up for Good Again”). Thorn’s four-piece road band rocks solid on a handful of up-tempo cuts, but really, the show is Thorn’s songwriting, his raspy baritone, and his nearly-solo acoustic and gut-string guitars. That’s what makes Never Too Late to Call his most serious, most stirring album yet, with all the heartbreaking vulnerability a former middleweight can muster.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.