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The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

This review was first published on CLUAS in 2003
Other albums reviewed in 2003

The Thorns

Review of their album 'The Thorns'

"Once upon a time there were three critically acclaimed yet commercially limited singer/songwriters. These three troubadours started to sing together one day and found that their voices blended perfectly together so they called themselves The Thorns and released an album for a big record company."

The ThornsThe story goes something like that. After Matthew Sweet's manager had persuaded the most criminally underrated purveyor of melodic pop rock and sun soaked harmonies to join forces with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins, everything just fell into place. To many on this side of the Atlantic, Droge and Sweet are largely unknown. Droge has to date released three very fine albums of country tinged rock and produced the solo debut of Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard. Sweet's album 'Girlfriend' is one of those records that everyone should own. Shawn Mullins will probably only ever be remembered for his one hit 'Lullaby' several years ago.

The trio's debut is all anyone could have asked for and so much more. Many have written them off as Crosby, Stills and Nash for the noughties but it was always inevitable that The Thorns close harmony singing would elicit such comparisons. Judged on its own merits, this is a remarkable piece of work. The harmonies are never less than inch perfect and The Thorns own mix of sixties pop and country rock at times even surpasses that of The Jayhawks or The Pernice Brothers. Three part harmonies and luscious melodies may not be the coolest thing in music at the moment but there is something just unmistakeably right about songs such as 'I Can't Remember', 'Runaway Feeling', 'No Blue Sky' and 'Now I Know'.

Of the three vocalists, Droge's trademark drawl seems to be mainly to the fore but it is when all three blend together that the shivers start and The Thorns prove just how misleading the name really is. This is smooth, heavenly and, to all those responsible for the state of modern music, a lesson in how pop music is really meant to sound.

Mark Grassick

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