Paul Metsa
Texas in the Twilight
LHR 2005
Home | Main Catalogue Page | Loudhouse Photo Album | Jukebox | Contact


Texas in the Twilight came about when Paul was looking for something to release in conjunction with his 25th anniversary of playing and recording. Searching through his vault, he discovered a cassette tape he had forgotten existed. Recorded in Austin, Texas, in 1990, for legendary producer Bob Johnston, Texas in the Twilight was recorded in a two-hour session direct to cassette. All the songs were recorded as first takes and in the order they appear on the CD. The tape that Paul found is not only the master, but the only surviving copy.

With 15 powerful tracks, Texas in the Twilight features highly charged political content and poetry as well as tales of lost and found love. Even though it was recorded fourteen years ago, the songs resonate just as well, if not more, in today's world. Metsa's galloping guitar and provocative vocals will have fans wondering why it has taken him so long to put out a completely acoustic solo album.

Paul has been described as the "Pit Bull of Folk" by a fan, and the Austin Chronicle has described his music as ". . . American street poetry." This makes sense since music is such a big part of his life as it always has been, Paul was born into a musical family. His mother was a jazz singer, his grandfather a professional accordion player and tavern owner, and he remembers music always being played in the home. Home in the Iron Range of Minnesota was also fertile ground, politically. The region gave voice to the beginnings of Unionism and such folk icons as Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Buffy Saint Marie and Arlo Guthrie have always been part of Paul's' musical landscape. "I wrote my first song when I was 12", remembers Paul, "How Many Time Must I Cry" dealt with my feelings about my parents separation. A couple of years later I wrote one that looked at the Six-Day Israeli war." He was part of a folk duo called Paul and Christian in fifth and sixth grade and started his first electric band, The Positive Reaction, a couple of years later. "I guess you could say I was a product of the folk "scare" of the late 60's. The thing that always stuck with me was the ability of songwriters like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan to provide a voice for those that don't have one. You realize the importance of the story of the common man and that inspired me to write." And did he. Over the years he's written hundreds of songs in his tattered notebook, bar napkins, whatever is handy when the song comes to him. "I believe in the songwriter as storyteller", Paul says, "Stuff comes to me through the newspaper, books I read, stories I hear from people."

Seeing Leo Kottke at the Guthrie Theatre in 1972 turned out to be a pivotal moment for young Paul. "I knew at that point I wanted to be a professional musician." The blues entered Paul's life shortly thereafter in the form of fellow musician Tim O'Keefe. "We billed ourselves as the only Finnish-Irish blues duo…basically we covered the Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee songbook."

Paul hasn't looked back. In the intervening thirty odd years he's played blues, folk, and a little bit of rock. He's worked as an acoustic soloist, fronted bands, organized concerts, acted as musical director for clubs and even made the occasional foray into radio. Raven Records, his own label, has released a handful of critically acclaimed albums of Paul's material. At the core of it all is a love for music and the ability to craft a song with lasting appeal. "I've been playing my original music all along, but I've realized just recently that I've made a living playing my own songs, just about exclusively, for over twenty years."

Along the way he's picked up no less than eight Minnesota Music Awards as a Songwriter, Electric Guitarist, Blues Vocalist, Folk Group, and Acoustic Guitarist. He was part of the 1992 Farm Aid concert with Willie Nelson. In 1996 Nora Guthrie invited him to play at the Rock and Roll hall of fame as part of the induction ceremonies for Woody Guthrie. He's played labor rallies at the behest of the AFL-CIO; was part of the 2000 "Million-Mile March" where he played for the Stop Gun Violence Coalition and has toured Iceland and Siberia.



Here's a sample of what people are saying about Paul Metsa, his talents, and his album.

"America's Answer to Billy Bragg." - National Public Radio

"Many thanks for sending us the beautiful new, strong release from Paul Metsa. I've enjoyed listening to his songs and music and I will give his disc regular airplay in our radio show "Roots Revival," because he's damn good." - Roots Revival Radio

It's one of my favorites of the year so far. Congratulations on a great release. -

"I just received the Texas in the Twilight-CD...Sounds real great! How complete the music from just a man with a guitar can sound...!!!" - Billybop Magazine - Denmark

"Metsa writes intricate storytelling songs with complex lyrics and rich melodies" - Relix

Though Paul Metsa's name is little-known 'round these parts, Austin's Loud House Records does its best to change that with Texas in the Twilight. Metsa began performing 25 years ago, the Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter having made waves in the mid-Eighties with Paper Tigers, and that quarter-century milestone is acknowledged with this archival recording. Twilight was recorded in Austin in 1990, 15 songs of political conviction and the vagaries of love. Metsa is the street-corner poet with a guitar as his lover, taking on the world in "Slow Justice" and offering the cautionary tale of teen hi jinks gone wrong on "Party to a Crime." "Nobody told me life would be this tough," he sings with anguish on "Another Man's Chains," neatly framing his sandpapered voice. Twilight isn't a polished recording, though. With just his guitar (and some overdubbed percussion), it was recorded live in the studio, and the occasional glitch remains. Still, with songs such as "As Good as It Gets" and "59 Coal Mines," Texas in the Twilight is as good an entry level into Metsa's music. That Loud House Records added Paul Metsa to their stable is another point in his favor. Slowly and surely, the Austin-based label is shaping up prestigiously. - Margaret Moser - The Austin Chronicle

Metsa Does Texas - With echoes of Springsteen's "Nebraska" and Dylan's "John Wesley Harding," Paul Metsa's new CD, "Texas in the Twilight," comes from a single session recorded in Austin in 1990. Metsa was back in Austin promoting the disc at South by Southwest last month, when he had an unlikely encounter with Bush spinmeister Karl Rove at a tribute to psychedelic-rock pioneer Roky Erickson. That's just one reason why the Iron Range native joked that he should have called the disc "Texas in the Twilight Zone." The CD is an all-acoustic collection featuring 15 Metsa originals, including "Kisses in the Wind" and "Judas Sang the Blues." It's raw but as powerful as a Texas tornado. - Minneapolis Star Tribune


1. Slow Justice

2. Kisses in the Wind

3. Party to a Crime

4. Fires of Jerusalem
5. 59 Coal Mines
6. Stars Over the Prairie
7. Floretta's Junkyard
8. Judas Sang the Blues
9. Another Man's Chains
10. Second Ave. Sunset
11. As Good As It gets
12. Honeymoon in Drag Alley
13. When the World Breaks Your Heart
14. Robots on Death Row
15. Texas in the Twilight





From West Bank bars with his band Cats Under the Stars to solo gigs at Nye's narrow polka bar, Paul Metsa's musical torch has burned for 25 years. The Iron Range rocker has won eight Minnesota Music Awards and continues to pack them in at local venues.

Or, as his 50th birthday party/concert invitation this fall, wisecracked: "5,000 gigs and liver still works."

But Metsa's music has often been mixed with activism. He's performed benefit concerts for striking workers, played at Willie Nelson's Farm Aid, and is now singing and fighting to save his beloved Guthrie Theater.

Metsa's new CD on Loudhouse Records - Texas in the Twilight - is a collection of acoustic remakes from his eight other albums plus four new songs. His new band, Paradise Alley, will make its debut December 21 at the Uptown Famous Dave's. And on December 18 at Mayslack's, he'll perform an autobiographical one-man show of his songs, poems, and storytelling as part of his annual "Holiday on Icecubes," which raises money for the food shelf at a senior high rise in his Northeast neighborhood.

"It's a kind of low-rent version of Hal Holbrook doing Mark Twain," he laughs. "Working title: 'Sometime Over The Rainbow.' Call it a dry run of the show-though that's really a misnomer-since it's in a bar!"

An Iron Range Youth
Unlike the Iron Range's most famous musical native son, Metsa unabashedly embraces politics and easily laughs at himself.
"Growing up in my town, you had people who were really vociferous on both sides of every argument-in church, school, city council meetings, bars, football games," Metsa says of his youth in Virginia, Minnesota. "Where my musical, spiritual, and political lives start and end, I don't know. It's like breathing."

His roots run deep in the Iron Range, proud site of some of the bloodiest battles of 20th century labor. During the major strikes of the 1970s, Metsa saw firsthand the struggle for safer mines and better wages. And it transformed his life and his music.
"Slow Justice," which Metsa calls his "most enduring song," was written for an album benefiting the Hormel P-9 workers during their 1985 strike that divided Austin, Minnesota.

Listen to Metsa's whiskey-tinged voice singing anthems like "Wall of Power" and "Another Man's Chain," his "Second Avenue" tale of homelessness, or the elegiac "Kitty Genevese" about violence against women, and it's clear that idealism and outrage propel his artistic vision.

"I grew up watching Westerns," Metsa recalls. "As a boy, there was a lot of resonance in that lone figure doing right for his county. There were only a few black people on the Iron Range but the civil rights movement was on TV. Watching Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson, I got turned on to Ray Charles, B.B. King, Richard Pryor, Jimi Hendrix-all this beautiful music that really resonated with my soul. Then, there was Martin Luther King," he adds. "Just the power of his voice. The poetry and magic. You didn't have to be very old to realize he was a very powerful figure."

John F. Kennedy was also a major influence. After JFK's assassination in 1963, Metsa followed the Warren Commission, acquired a "bookshelf of books" on the topic, and easily sidetracks into analysis of the evidence, arguments he's eloquently put to music.
"I realized there was evil in the world. I grew up middle class. The assassination broke that bubble of safety. I saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald live on TV," he recalls. "It was a one-two punch of violence into my life."

The Poetry of Politics
Metsa calls himself a "great believer in democracy," but says he has become disenchanted with the political process. "There's not a lot of poetry left in politics," he declares. "Washington seems to be nothing but a snake-oil grease-pit of backroom power plays. These politicians should know how kids take their cues from them."

Metsa learned the art of political debate early on. His mother was his town's only Republican.

"I miss the time when people of different political perspectives could talk to each other with respect. My mother and I always had very respectful, complex conversations about politics. She was conservative in the best sense of the word, and I've got a lot of conservative traits," he observes. "I believe in conserving civil rights, conserving the environment, conserving my pocketbook. I believe in conserving liberty and conserving architectural and cultural history."

Putting those values into action led Metsa to create an organization devoted to saving the Guthrie Theater, which is slated for demolition next year.

He recalls making a snowy drive from his Iron Range home in 1972 to see folk guitarist Leo Kottke at the Guthrie. "It was so magical, so uplifting. There was no doubt in my mind that this was what I had to do with my life-become a professional musician," he says. Of his own performances at what he calls "the Carnegie Hall of the Midwest," Metsa says: "Being on that stage is to commune with the ghosts of the 20th century."

The Guthrie is "completely functional," he argues, with perfect acoustics and no seat farther than 54 feet from the stage. Metsa envisions the Guthrie as a multicultural center. "Leave us a place where we can come to know each other's culture, manners, and arts, and get to know each other as people."

The Guthrie effort is just another way that Metsa is building community, using his talents as a musician and activist to make a better city. Like his musical hero, Pete Seeger, Metsa knows that the real work of an artist is "not about Hollywood. It's about your hometown." - Lydia Howell - The Minneapolis Observer - December 5, 2005