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Paul Metsa & Sonny Earl - No Money Down (EP CD and DVD package)

Maximum Folk

6 songs; 24:34 minutes on EP CD, 2 songs; 08:44 minutes on DVD

Styles: Folk; Folk Rock; Electric and Acoustic Blues; Country

Blues Blast Magazine, ostensibly, has one chief purpose: keeping the blues alive. One might wonder, then, why an album produced by MaximumFolk would find its way here. Paul Metsa and Sonny Earl's third release, No Money Down, is primarily a Folk album (best example, Goebel Reeves’s “Hobo’s Lullaby”). Three original tracks are interspersed with three covers (“Who Do You Love,” River Hip Mama,” and Hobo’s Lullaby”). All six songs exude a soggy and half-finished air. There is a bonus DVD included of this duo performing “No Money Down” and “Whiskey or the Rain.” However, this reviewer does not find either music video much of a “bonus.” Metsa and Earl are Minneapolis music veterans who have been a duo over ten years.

To his credit, Sonny Earl plays decent harmonica. Metsa performs enthusiastically, to his own credit, but is missing something. He talks, rather than sings, and his vocals occasionally lapse into growling sound effects. In order to understand the mind-boggling mystery that is “No Money Down,” let's take a look at the effort put forth into the bonus DVD. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This reviewer was left breathless, speechless, and incredulous!

“No Money Down” is a meditation on moolah and the harsh state of the economy these days. At least, that's what it's meant to be. Instead, as viewers watch the video of this song, they'll be treated to some perplexing sights: a little girl pouring a jar of change into Metsa's suitcase, signs exhorting “SAY NO TO WAR!” and “STOP,” and, most shockingly, Sonny Earl soliciting a modestly-dressed prostitute. As the two musicians stroll along PhotoShopped boulevards and invite random people to be featured on the chorus, they don't even look like they're playing their respective instruments, and their lips do not synchronize with the audible vocals. “You can wish for the world if you want it, but no money down!” Metsa sneers as a spinning globe appears on the screen with the subtitle “WISH” on the bottom.

The second DVD entry, the Countrified “Whiskey or the Rain,” features dancer Jeanie Pebbles in an unsettling avant-garde interpretation of the relaxing song. Our friend PhotoShop again features prominently, combining with Pebbles' flowing red dress and half-strip-teasing style. (Honestly, this video is exactly as described!) The song’s highlight: there is a tasty Dobro solo mid-song courtesy of Al Oikari who also adds piano.

In the songs, the boys do an electric tribute to Bo Diddley with “Who Do You Love” featuring San Francisco blues guitarist Ron Thompson on electric guitar. A lively original string band number, “Dirty Dishes,” is performed in the tradition of the Mississippi Sheiks and features Minneapolis folk godfather Bill Hinkley on fiddle and mandolin. Charlie Musslewhite and Junior Boy Jones’ tune “River Hip Mama” finds Metsa and Earl nodding to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, whom Paul and Sonny credit as their inspiration.

While this EP/CD and DVD will appeal to their fans, I believe I was too distracted to fully appreciate their talent. Just in case one wants more of Metsa and Earl, they have other offerings: Live at Famous Dave's BBQ and Blues Festival 2006” and White Boys Lost in the Blues.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 31-year-old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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