Range native revisits Kinney’s famous history

The album cover Range native Paul Seeba's new album. He has written a song about Kinney's threatening secession from the union to apply for foreign aid to repair the city's water system.

Iron Range native and musician Paul Seeba has made a new album called “The Republic of Kinney,” memorializing the city’s bold move back in 1977 to get government funding for a better water system.

The title track highlights the small town between Virginia and Chisholm that threatened to secede from the United States — and made national news. “Kinney had been previously unsuccessful in obtaining the resources it needed for a water project so this ‘seccession’ was a clever ploy to garner the attention of those in power so they could obtain funding for the project,” Seeba said in an email. “An official letter was sent to the Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, informing the government of Kinney’s intentions to secede. Kinney didn’t leave the U.S., but it did get the needed resources.” The iconic Mary Anderson was mayor and spearheaded the move.

Singer/songwriter Seeba grew up in Hibbing. His debut album, “Mitchell Yards,” became the soundtrack for a PBS documentary out of Minnesota (WDSE-Duluth) that won a 2015 Midwest Emmy. The song and documentary recall the vital role the switching station played during World War II. He, along with members of WDSE-TV, received a 2015 award from the Minnesota Preservation Alliance for raising awareness of the value of historical sites. He has a history teacher background.

The new album was recorded at Rich Mattson’s Sparta Sound in rural Eveleth. Musical contributions on the album were made by Tim Kruchowski, Rob Klaysmat, Greg Tiburzi, Steve Lah, Ryan Johnston and Mattson. The album was mastered in the Twin Cities by Tom Garneau.

Seeba knew of the story of Kinney since he was a boy, but it only came back to him as a story to write about a few years ago. “I respect the streak of independence and resolve that Kinney showed, but it also struck me as kind of a funny story, seeing a small village challenge a global superpower.” Seeba wrote the song “thinking that there could be an inside scoop for Iron Range folks, but it could also be of interest outside Minnesota.”

Here are the lyrics to “The Republic of Kinney”:

Still trying to get skinny, better move to Papua New Guinea

Got no roads down there, you gotta walk everywhere

And if you’re getting long in your years, better move yourself to Algiers

But stay out of the sun, if you wanna stay looking young

So you’re feeling kind of cool, you better move yourself to Peru

They got the Noni Juice, flowing out of trees down there

You wanna steal my lovin’ heart, you ain’t got to look that hard

It’s right around the bend, take a left up here

You want to be my little light, you want to be my overnight

Right here, right now The Republic of Kinney

We don’t need no passports, they ain’t go no airport

They’ve got no armed guards, we gotta sneak around

They ain’t got no kings or queens, no dirty politician schemes

It’s right around the bend, take a left up here.

You want to be my little light, you want to be my overnight

Right here, right now The Republic of Kinney

Still trying to get skinny, better move to Papua New Guinea

Another song from the album, “Doc,” is an adaptation of a first person narrative about a Vietnam War medic. Seeba adapted the story from his relative, James Toscano, who fought in Vietnam. Toscano had seen combat and wrote an observation about a medic who refused to carry a gun, but still served his country in an honorable way by mending the injured. Seeba said, “I thought it was a compelling story. Sadly, James passed a few years back, but I hope this song can do something to honor him and his service.”

Other tracks on the album include, “Amber Glows,” a song that deals with the struggles of addiction. “Lizzie Borden’s Sister” weaves unfortunate historical figures together. “Penelope Baby,” “Runaway Truck Ramp” and “Achy Valentine Heart” all speak to heartbreaks, Seeba said, and “Blue Moon Rising” and “Solitude Not a Tragedy” have “themes of optimism.”

Seeba and his wife are raising two daughters in St. Paul. His website is www.paulseeba.com. He is also playing locally with Rich Mattson at The Shop in Virginia from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 4.

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