Paper Tigers, Paul Metsa's debut album, was originally released in 1984 on Raven Records (Metsa's label.) It received wonderful reviews and Paul was compared to Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Van Morrison and others. The Austin Chronicle called it 'American Street Poetry.' This release (on Paul's new label MaximumFolk.com) features all original 8 tracks, and two bonus tracks: 59 Coal Mines (the A-side of a single on Raven Records in '85, and a solo acoustic version of Virginia.) The record features the cream of the crop of Minneapolis musicians including Willie Murphy (who produced Bonnie Raitt's first record,) Peter Ostroushko (a featured performer on Dylan's Blood on the Tracks,) Eddie Berger alto saxophonist par excellence, Prudence Johnson (Rio Nido, Prairie Home Companion) Tommy Lieberman (Rio Nido,) trumpet ace Billy Sheill, and members of Paul's band Cats Under the Stars (named 3 years before the Jerry Garcia record of the same name) Tim O'Keefe, John Pasternacki, Joe Luoma, and Al Oikari. Cats Under the Stars, though they played a variety of musical styles, were considered the first jam band in the Twin Cities. Paper Tigers features a variety of styles as well. It opens with a full band version of Virginia, a Springsteen-esque sweep that says 'nothing changes, but you don't feel the same.' The rollicking piano driven blues number Robots on Death Row is next. Stars Over the Prairie follows, a bluegrass anthem that is considered one of Metsa's finest songs. A solo version of Fires of Jerusalem is a Woody Guthrie inspired number whose chorus reads, 'when the war is in the East, Go West young man, Go West.' The title track, Paper Tigers, is a surrealist escapade that goes 'outside' with the manic jazz piano of John Einwick. Shadow Girls, is a reggae romp, featuring Eddie Berger on a lilting alto sax solo. Electric High Heels is rock and roll at it's finest, old school at that. The first bonus track is 59 Coal Mines, originally a single that Paul put out in 1985, featuring Cal Hand (Leo Kottke, Sorry Mutha's) on pedal steel, and a great trio of gospel singers. The Boston Rock called this number 'An American Classic, that recalls Woody Guthrie.' The record ends with a solo acoustic version of Virginia. Paper Tigers is the debut work of an artist that has gone on to win 7 MN Music Awards, performed in concert with everyone from Ani DiFranco to Warren Zevon as well as stellar performances at Farm Aid V at the request of Willie Nelson, The Tribute to Woody Guthrie at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the request of Nora Guthrie, and at the Million Mom March in 1999. It not only stands the test of time, but sounds as timely and relevant as the year it was recorded. Interestingly, it was recorded on the same board that was used in the recording of Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Ghosts in the machine, as they say.
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