An interesting thing happened on Paul Thorn’s road to recording a follow-up to his most successful release, 2010’s Pimps and Preachers. After writing many discs of semi-autobiographical tunes that have drawn comparisons to John Hiatt and John Prine, the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter - hailed as the “Mark Twain of Americana” - decided to take a detour and do an album of covers. “I wanted to take a break from myself,” Thorn reveals, “do something different, and just have fun.”
 
The collection, entitled What The Hell Is Goin’ On? (due May 8, on Perpetual Obscurity/Thirty Tigers) finds Thorn putting his own gritty rock stamp on some of his favorite songs. There are some names familiar to Americana fans (Buddy Miller, Ray Wylie Hubbard), some lesser-known (Foy Vance, Wild Bill Emerson) and some surprises. The Buckingham/Nicks tune “Don’t Let Me Down Again” originated on that duo’s debut, not during the Fleetwood Mac era, while the Free song that Thorn chose to cover is an obscure one, “Walk In My Shadow.”
 
Thorn selected tunes that meant something important to him. “I would hear them in the tour van or I’d be at a festival and see someone perform them live,” Thorn says, “and I'd say ‘That’s a great song, I wish I had written it!’” One thing the songwriters have in common according to Thorn is that they are true artists. “They don’t just write songs in an effort to become popular or follow trends,” he explains. “At the risk of sounding corny, they write with their hearts. None of these songs are cookie-cutter tunes like you hear on the radio today. They all have real depth, which is very appealing to me.”