Two Mississippi artists perform in honor of Tupelo’s native son at Elvis Festival

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Paul Thorn covers Elvin Bishop, Buddy Miller and Big Al Anderson on his new album, but don’t expect the Tupelo musician to cover that other Tupelo musician when he performs at the festival that bears his name.
“I’m not gonna do an Elvis song, cause I can’t do them justice. There’s only one Elvis,” Thorn said in a phone interview with the Daily Journal from a tour stop in Texas. “I’ve never jumped in that bowl of soup. There are plenty of people doing that. And I don’t have much hair, and this world ain’t got no place for a bald-headed Elvis impersonator.”
Thorn is out promoting his new album full of covers, called “What the Hell is Goin’ On?” His busy tour schedule includes a stop in his hometown to headline the Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival on June 1.
“What the Hell is Goin’ On?” is Thorn’s 10th album, and the title of the album comes from Bishop’s song of the same name, which Thorn covers on the CD. The video for that single is currently on CMT.
“It was the No. 1 streamed video, so I was a little proud of that. The record actually debuted at 88 on the Billboard Top 200, so we’re very excited,” he said.
Thorn wanted to make a covers album that honored the originals but had that classic Paul Thorn sound.
“We’d go in the studio and listen to the original and say, ‘Let’s not do it exactly like they did it. Let’s do it like we do it,’” he said.
Fans can expect to hear some of those covers at the Elvis fest, as well as some fan favorites.
“There are certain core songs your fans like to hear, but I’m also gonna sprinkle in a few songs off my new record. You have to find the right balance,” Thorn said.
Houser in the house
Country star Randy Houser, a native of Lake, opens for Little Big Town at the Elvis festival on June 2.
As a fellow Mississippi musician, he can’t wait to honor the state’s most famous singer.
“I’ve always been a huge Elvis fan. I always had a weird kind of kinship to Elvis. We grew up in a lot of the same way, we grew up pretty poor, I always knew I wanted to play music like him as a kid,” Houser said in a phone interview with the Daily Journal. The star also said he’s toured Graceland countless times and read every Elvis book he could find.
“He was just bigger than life. He was the first rock star we ever had,” Houser said. “He was just cool.”
Houser tries to embody that rock ‘n’ roll spirit at his concerts.
“I’ll have a setlist, but it changes nightly. We just go with it, and play whatever we feel like playing at the time. Come out and expect to have a good time. We laugh and joke around,” he said.
Houser is a busy man: He’s touring, half-way through recording a new album and has a newborn son at home.
“I seldom get to do anything for me, but it’s great,” he said. “I love it.”
He’s ready to play the Elvis festival.
“We’re excited to get down to Tupelo,” he said. “I’m such a huge Elvis fan. That’s gonna be cool.”

WHAT: Concerts, Elvis tribute artist concerts and competitions, Sunday gospel show, 5K run, carnival, parade, more

WHEN: May 31-June 3

WHERE: Downtown Tupelo

INFO:, (662) 841-6598

June 1
• 6:45 p.m. – 2011 Elvis Tribute
Artist winner Cody Slaughter

• 7:45 p.m. – Jordyn Mallory

• 9:30 p.m. – Paul Thorn

• Cost: $10 plus fees

June 2
• 6:15 p.m. – Cody Slaughter

• 7 p.m. – David Nail

• 8:30 p.m. – Randy Houser

• 10 p.m. – Little Big Town

• Cost: $20 plus fees

• Extra: Gates open at 6 p.m. each day. Lawn chairs and small umbrellas are welcome, but outside food or beverage aren’t allowed.

CHECK NEXT THURSDAY’S SCENE section for more on
the Elvis tribute artist competition and concert and the Sunday gospel show.

Click video to hear audio