Shiner Sunday featuring Paul Thorn & Nick Verzosa!
Catch live Texas music from Love and War in Texas – Lindale! Sundays from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., you’ll enjoy portions of the concert and interviews with the artists live on kykx1057 and 104.1 The Ranch. Hosted by Phat Matt.
About Paul Thorn:
“In the past, I’ve told stories that were mostly inspired by my own life,” the former prizefighter and literal son of a preacher man offers. “This time, I’ve written 10 songs that express more universal truths, and I’ve done it with a purpose: to make people feel good.”
Which explains numbers like the acoustic-electric charmer Don’t Let Nobody Rob You Of Your Joy, where Thorn’s warm peaches-and-molasses singing dispenses advice on avoiding the pitfalls of life. The title track borrows its tag from a familiar saying among the members of the African-American Baptist churches Thorn frequented in his childhood. “I’d ask, ‘How you doin’, sister?’ And what I’d often hear back was, ‘I’m too blessed to be stressed.'” In the hands of Thorn and his faithful band, who’ve been together 20 years, the tune applies its own funky balm, interlacing a percolating drum and keyboard rhythm with the slinky guitar lines beneath his playful banter.
Thorn’s trademark humor is abundant throughout the album. I Backslide On Friday is a warm-spirited poke at personal foibles. “I promised myself not to write about me, but I did on ‘Backslide,’ ” Thorn relates. The chipper pop tune is a confession about procrastination, sweetened by Bill Hinds’ slide guitar and Thorn’s gently arching melody. “But,” Thorn protests, “I know I’m not the only one who says he’s gonna diet and just eat Blue Bell vanilla ice cream on Sundays, and then ends up eating it every day!”
Mediocrity Is King takes a wider swipe, aiming at our culture’s hyper-drive addiction to celebrity artifice and rampant consumerism. But like Everything Is Gonna Be All Right, a rocking celebration of the simple joys of life, it’s done with Thorn’s unflagging belief in the inherent goodness of the human heart.
“I don’t think I could have written anthemic songs like this if I hadn’t made my last album,” Thorn says of 2012’s What the Hell is Goin’ On?. Like 2010’s autobiographical Pimps & Preachers, it was among its year’s most played CDs on Americana radio and contributed to Thorn’s rapidly growing fan base. And Thorn followed that airplay success with his current AAA-radio hit version of Doctor My Eyes from April 2014’s Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne. The latter also features Grammy winners Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, the Indigo Girls, Lucinda Williams, Keb’ Mo’, Ben Harper and Don Henley.
What the Hell is Goin’ On? was also Thorn’s first set of songs written by other artists, borrowed from the catalogs of Allen Toussaint, Buddy and Julie Miller, and Rick Danko, among others.
“I lived with those songs and studied them before I recorded that album, and that changed me and made me grow as a songwriter,” Thorn relates. “Lindsey Buckingham’s Don’t Let Me Down Again especially got me thinking. It was a rock anthem with a sing-along hook, and I fell in love with it and the idea of big vocal hooks. So every song on Too Blessed To Be Stressed has a big vocal hook in it. And it works! We’ve been playing these songs in concert, and by the time the chorus comes along for the second time people are singing along. I’ve never seen that happen with my unreleased songs before, and I love it.”
It helps that those big vocal hooks on Too Blessed To Be Stressed are being reinforced by the sound of Thorn’s flexible and dynamic band, as they have been doing for years in concert. During their two decades in the club, theater and festival trenches, the four-piece and their frontman have garnered a reputation for shows that ricochet from humor to poignancy to knock-out rock ‘n’ roll. Guitarist Bill Hinds is the perfect, edgy foil for Thorn’s warm, laconic salt o’ the earth delivery – a veritable living library of glowing tones, sultry slide and sonic invention. Keyboardist Michael “Dr. Love” Graham displays a gift for melody that reinforces Thorn’s hooks while creating his own impact, and helps expand the group’s rhythmic force. Meanwhile drummer Jeffrey Perkins and bassist Ralph Friedrichsen are a force, propelling every tune with just the right amount of up-tempo power or deep-in-the-groove restraint.
“These guys really bring my songs to life,” says Thorn. “A lot of albums sound like they’re made by a singer with bored studio musicians. My albums sound they’re played by a real blood-and-guts band because that’s what we are. And when we get up on stage, people hear and see that.”
Thorn’s earlier catalog is cherished by his many fans thanks to his down-home perspective, vivid-yet-plainspoken language and colorful characters. It helps that Thorn is a colorful and distinctly Southern personality himself. He was raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the land of cotton and catfish. And churches.
“My father was a preacher, so I went with him to churches that white people attended and churches that black people attended,” Thorn says. “The white people sang gospel like it was country music, and the black people sang it like it was rhythm and blues. But both black and white people attended my father’s church, and that’s how I learned to sing mixing those styles.”
His performances were generally limited to the pews until sixth grade. “I’m dyslexic and got held back in sixth grade,” Thorn relates. “I didn’t have to face the embarrassment, because my family moved and I ended up in a new school. There was a talent show, and I sang Three Times a Lady by Lionel Ritchie with my acoustic guitar, and suddenly I went from being a social outcast to the most desired boy on the playground. The feeling I got from that adulation stuck with me and propelled me to where I am today.”
At age 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 the singer-songwriter’s life. But through it all he and Maddox remained friends, and Maddox became Thorn’s songwriting partner and co-producer.
Nonetheless, Thorn possessed the ability to charm audiences right from the start. Not only with his music, but also with the stories he tells from the stage. “Showmanship is a dying art that I learned from watching Dean Martin on TV when I was a kid,” Thorn explains. “He could tell little jokes and then deliver a serious song, then make you laugh again. And he would look into the camera like he was looking right at you through the TV. That’s what I want to do – make people feel like I’m talking directly to them.”
That’s really Thorn’s mission for Too Blessed To Be Stressed, which can be heard as a running conversation about life between Thorn and listeners – a conversation leavened with gentles insights, small inspirations, and plenty of cheer. “I wrote these songs hoping they might put people in a positive mindset and encourage them to count their own blessings, like I count mine,” Thorn observes. “There’s no higher goal I could set for myself than to help other people find some happiness and gratitude in their lives.”
About Nick Verzosa
Staunchly independent, Nick Verzosa has proven to be that necessary mix of pure talent, hard work and personality required to dig deep roots into the always competitive Texas music market and shows the ability to spread his branches outside the state lines as well. His strong belief in working hard for what you want is self-evident in his road-warrior mentality, still finding time to vigilantly hone his songwriting craft, which he would tell you is his true passion. Relatable lyrics flow over the smooth gravel in the bottom of Nick’s voice and tumble powerfully over the edge in the most poignant moments of his songs.
Love In Principle is a six-song EP is co-produced by Verzosa and multi-dimensional artist, AJ Vallejo, who is recognized not only for his success in the notorious Austin-based rock band Vallejo, but also for his production chops on projects that include Jessica Kellner from NBC’s “The Voice,” and American Idol alumni Kendall Beard. AJ also stars as producer on the band’s debut music video for their first single “Love On It.” Verzosa’s growth spurt as a songwriter has never failed to attract the attention of major players in the songwriting game, and music connoisseurs who prefer finely aged and intelligently crafted songs over cheap cliché anthems. LOVE IN PRINCIPLE is a strong message of that four letter word that encompasses all of the higher qualities of the human condition.
The belief and support surrounding Nick Verzosa boasts a pedigree of great distinction including universally respected and admired songwriter, artist and producer Walt Wilkins who produced the band’s first EP, The Smoking Gun in 2010 and his first full length album, She Only Loves Me in 2011. Combined, these two noteworthy efforts brought in five Top 40 singles on the Texas Music Chart establishing the College Station-based band as a respected contender for the attention of the great Texas music fan base. While they continue to build a lasting impression among fans, they have already earned the respect, love and reputation as a tight, professional group, by many of their brothers and sisters in arms.
“I love Nick Verzosa – Big heart, soulful voice, hard worker, good writer and good man to ride the river with.
I dig his writing too, and always look forward to hearing what he’s into and up to next.”
– Walt Wilkins, singer/songwriter/producer
A force on the live music circuit, tackling an upwards of 200 shows a year, Nick Verzosa is a consummate entertainer snagging co-bills with acts like Chris Young, Reckless Kelly, Zane Williams, The Damn Quails and Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros. The growing buzz is contagious, and music fans are responding quite nicely to Verzosa’s kind of medicine. “Most people can’t afford a therapist. Music is the best kind of therapy I’ve got.”