Bicentennial

Tupelo’s ‘poet laureate’ Paul Thorn bringing roots-rock to Bicentennial

Tupelo’s Paul Thorn is one of several artists with ties to Mississippi who will be performing at the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South on Saturday in Gulfport.
Tupelo’s Paul Thorn is one of several artists with ties to Mississippi who will be performing at the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South on Saturday in Gulfport. Courtesy

Paul Thorn probably doesn’t appreciate being labeled. His music, which is often called “roots-rock” and “Americana” is a mixture of rock, country, gospel and soul. A humble guy who grew up in and around Tupelo, probably dislikes this label the most — Renaissance man. But it is a fitting description for someone who has been a pugilist, singer/songwriter and painter.

Thorn will be bringing his Southern-centric catalog that includes songs such as “Pimps and Preachers,” “It’s a Long Way to Tupelo” and “Snake Farm” to Gulfport on Saturday. Thorn is one of several who will perform during the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South at Centennial Plaza, 200 E. Beach Blvd., Gulfport. A limited number of tickets are available at area Wal-Mart stores.

Born in Wisconsin, Thorn still lives in Plantersville, just outside the city limits of Tupelo, which is also the home of Rep. Steve Holland and Holland’s wife, Gloria, who is the town’s mayor. Although Thorn travels the country playing show after show, he said he still enjoys hanging his proverbial hat in northeast Mississippi.

“My family is here and a lot my friends are here — I just like it,” he said in an interview with the Sun Herald. “The cost of living is great here — it’s better than any state I’ve ever lived in — it’s a cheap place to live and I like it.”

Thorn also said he likes the amenities of Lee County living.

“I can go out the back of my house and fish or go in the woods — they also have these convenience stores by my house that serve great plate lunches.”

In the 20 years since Thorn’s debut album, “Hammer and Nail,” which was released by A&M, he’s made seven additional studio albums, including 2010’s “Pimps and Preachers” and 2014’s “Too Blessed to Be Stressed.” The son of a preacher man, Thorn said his love and appreciation for Mississippi’s rich musical heritage goes back to his days in the church pews.

“I grew up singing in these old Southern Pentecostal churches and that’s where I learned music — that’s the same way Elvis did,” Thorn said. “Singing in church was my biggest influence.”

If you go

Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South

Centennial Plaza, 200 E. Beach Blvd., Gulfport

Friday, March 31

Activities start at 9 a.m.

Entertainment includes Pine Hills Dulcimer Group, Amanda Cook and Kennesaw Ridge and Coast Big Band Salutes the Military

Tickets are available at ms200south.org and at the Sun Herald (205 DeBuys Road in Gulfport) in exchange for a canned-food item.

Saturday, April 1

Activities start at 9 a.m.

Entertainment includes Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, Paul Thorn and The Band Perry

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