What the Hell is Goin’ On?
Perpetual Obscurity Records

In Paul Thorn’s vision of hell, iPods play only Toby Keith. Fortunately, he lives a few flights up, where far more sublime — and even sacred — tunes exist. On this album, he chose to cover a dozen, lending his Tupelo-sweetened, rural-roughened voice to cherry picks from Buddy and Julie Miller, Lindsey Buckingham, Allen Toussaint, Rick Danko, Paul Rodgers and Free and a slew of others. On “Snake Farm,” Ray Wylie Hubbard’s down ’n’ dirty groove gets a workout by a guy who’s probably lived this reptilian tale. Bill Hinds’ wicked slide guitar details every slither in a version that, dare we say, smites the original? By the time the organ kicks in — and the rattle — it’s official. Elvin Bishop personally delivers more of the same on the title tune, his own composition. The McCrary Sisters, the busiest backing vocalists in Nashville, lend their pipes to various tracks, including the bluesy, soulful Foy Vance cut, “Shed A Little Light” and Eli “Paperboy” Reed’s “Take My Love With You,” lifted into full gospel raveup mode by Michael Graham’s honky-tonk piano. It’s almost hard to dell Thorn’s voice apart from Delbert McClinton’s on “Bull Mountain Bridge,” a too-fun track with a chorus, recorded during a Delbert cruise, featuring Kevin Welch, Delbert’s daughter Delaney and others known as Les Hillbillies des Pirates. Thorn’s never had a problem writing brilliant songs, but he cruises through these covers like they’re his own. We’ll take more whenever he’s ready. — LYNNE MARGOLIS