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Iron Range history reflected in songs

Apr 28, 2014 | Blog, News

Posted: Monday, April 28, 2014 10:45 pm| Updated: 11:03 pm, Mon Apr 28, 2014.


VIRGINIA — Hibbing native Paul Seeba has been a guitarist and songwriter for 30 years and his profession is teaching high school history. So it’s a natural that his songs reflect that background and are reflected in the music of his band called Mitchell Yards.

“The narratives in my songs often connect with the Iron Range since that is the place of my roots. I am very proud to come from a place that is rich in cultural heritage,” Seeba said in an email. He and his wife, the former Louise Toscano of Chisholm, and family live in St. Paul and the band performs throughout the Midwest. And at 8:30 p.m. May 8 the band will play at the 218 in Virginia.

“My lyrics often have a narrative that evokes some aspect of Minnesota’s cultural heritage. Often my stories gravitate towards the local color of the Iron Range since that is where I grew up,” he said. During Hibbing’s Dylan Days, celebrating Bob Dylan, the band will appear May 23 at Crown Ballroom in Hibbing.

He is proud to say that his music was recorded at Sparta Sound in Sparta, midway between Gilbert and Eveleth. The band recently performed at Yo’r Mudders Place in Gilbert.

His latest CD is called Mitchell Yards and the title song “recalls the role that a Range switching station played during World War II,” he said. “I tried to tie the war history into a story about a fictional fourth grader getting involved in the war effort to beat the Axis. I became interested in the Mitchell Yards after learning it was slated for the wrecking ball. Thankfully, it has been identified by the Minnesota Preservation Society as a place of great historical value so it has a lifeline.”

The lyrics read in part:

Well, he’s nine years old and he’s never been told,

Never pull a fire alarm just for fun

Switchman would say, Hey Jimmy Bray

We need an engineer with a BB gun

Jimmy asks why, Switchman replies

Everyone’s gone off to fight in D Day

Switchman says, we’ll forget your mess

Just steer the locomotive in the right way

He says look all the fast trains pulling all the cars

Heading on down to the Mitchell Yards

Look at all the fast trains pulling all the ore

Heading on off to a world war

Now ride, ride that train

Gonna ride, ride that train

Gonna ride, ride that train

To the Mitchell Yards

Another of his songs is “Science Fair,” which details the history of Gus Hall of Cherry, who ran for president on the Communist ticket, and of Mesaba Park, the site of many Communist activities. “My high school civics teacher told a story of being pulled over by the FBI and interrogated in the late 1950’s. He had a construction job for the summer and the position required him to pass the area each day. He was pulled over as a person of interest. The story is murky as I tried to have a very dark, tense verse interrupted with a pop chorus. The darker narrative is meant to convey the tension of the McCarthy era. Meanwhile, an innocent child is at a science fair a few miles away completely oblivious to the Cold War drama unfolding in the dusty woods a few miles away,” said Seeba.

Mesaba Park Communist stronghold of America

Mesaba Park Communist stronghold of America

Gus Hall Ran for President in 1960

Gus Hall Communist President of America

Oooh that’s right

I was at the Science Fair and

Oooh that’s right

I was at the Science Fair

The FBI and a black limo on the Iron Range

The FBI drove my teacher off the road today

J. Edgar Hoover 10 miles from my home

Hoover hunting Hall 10 miles from my door

Another of his favorites is titled “The Greyhound Bus,” reflective of the Greyhound line originating in Hibbing.