Like the Iron Range itself-and Dylan for that matter, Paul Metsa is a hodge-podge of people, a melting pot of different characters and performers. He's a folk singer, a blues singer, a guitarist, a social activist, a Finn, a storyteller, a comedian, a philosopher, a conspiracy theorist and a lounge lizard. He was won 7 MN Music Awards, including Americana Artist of the Year in 2005. He has performed thousands of shows over the years, including Farm Aid V in Dallas, Texas in 1992 at the request of Willie Nelson, the Tribute to Woody Guthrie at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1996, and the Million Mom March in Washington, DC in 1999 as a guest of the Stop Handgun Violence Coalition. He has also toured in Iceland as Minnesota's Musical Ambassador, and in Siberia, both without international incidident. Though an independent musician for over 3 decades, Metsa has appeared in concert with everyone from Ani DiFranco to Warren Zevon, Bettye LaVette to Bruce Springsteen, and Mojo Nixon to Pete Seeger.
Blues, Ballads & Broadsides (Songs from the Blue Guitar Highway) encapsulates and highlights 30 years of Metsa's recording history from his first recording with his band Cats Under the Stars in 1982 (Blue Ghosts) to the most recent original Blue Guitar Highway recorded in September of 2012 that shares it's title with Paul's critically acclaimed memoir Blue Guitar Highway which was published by the University of MN Press in 2011. This 17 song collection features many of the songs Metsa writes about in the memoir of which Kirkus Review said "Metsa is as likeable a narrator as ever graced a barstool." Discord Magazine said, "Blue Guitar Highway shows the strength and resilience a performer can achive by staying in touch with his roots." Other reviewers have compared his writing to Dylan's Chronicles, Jack Kerouac, Walt Whitman, and Raymond Chandler.
This disc features some of the finest musicians in America. Songs like Stars Over the Prairie and Robots on Death Row features legendary Twin Cities musicians like Peter Ostroushko, Prudence Johnson, Tim O'Keefe, and Willie Murphy. There are also six songs from Metsa's 1992 disc Whistling Past the Graveyard. That was produced by Bucky Baxter (Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Ryan Adams) who also played pedal steel and lap steel on it. Garry Tallent (Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band) played bass, and George Marinelli (Bruce Hornsby and Bonnie Raitt) played guitar on both Wall of Power and Jack Ruby (Metsa's 12 verse take on the JFK assassination and conspiracy.) Paul's long time harmonica player Sonny Earl joins him on Whiskey or the Rain (from their EP No Money Down.) There are also two live tracks (St. Louis County Fair, and a solo take on Kisses in the Wind) that were recorded at the historic Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. The last song, Blue Guitar Highway features some of Paul's old Minneapolis pals: Donnie LaMarca on Hammond B-3, Andy Dee on dobro, and Tim O'Keefe on harmonica. The vocals were done by two legendary singers: The Rev Gary Timbs (who was Sonny James bandleader in the 70's, during which time he turned down two offers to sing with Elvis, and soul legend Willie Walker, who plays regularly in a duo around the Twin Cities with Paul.
Over the years Metsa has had stunning reviews in Spin, Billboard, the Austin Chronicle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the NY Review of Records, CMJ Magazine, the Minneapolis StarTribune, and many others. Lou Santacroce of On the Opera, a show that ran on National Public Radio called Paul "America's answer to Billy Bragg." It would be hard to listen to some of these songs and not agree with him. Though Metsa has compared to everyone from Dylan, Springsteen, John Cale, Van Morrison, and others, we think you'll agree after listening he sounds like no one but himself. The Austin Chronicle called it "American street poetry." Like Nora Guthrie said on the back of his book, "Paul Metsa is a natural-born writer. He can write anything. Lyrics, letters, articles all flow out of him like an exotic, ferocious waterfall splashing down on all the senses. If he writes it, I read it." We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Dig it, Dig in, and turn it up.