Friday, June 17, 2016

Use the entire Second Amendment to regulate guns.

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
Ok, so maybe the first step in all the USA's political debates should be: words matter. Our common heritage of written words is still here, we just ignore it. In high school I was made to understand the meaning of a dependent introductory clause. Is it too much to expect that the first words of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, almost one-half of the entire amendment, be admitted to exist? And that they intentionally express the will of the Founding Fathers? And that the right to keep and bear arms is inherently tied to a well regulated militia and security?
In a well regulated militia there would be a hierarchy of command to enforce the regulations. Who had which gun would be documented. It would not be a free for all allowing any and all weapons to be in the hands of practically anybody. Some militia volunteers would be deemed unfit to serve at all and, thus, denied a weapon. Only the highest level of trained militia members would have military grade assault rifles and high-capacity clips- in other words the National Guard. It would make sense to allow lesser members to have a couple of hunting rifles and a handgun with limited ammo capacity. Smart guns could be required so no unqualified person could steal and fire that smart gun.
The starting point must be recognition of the dependent introductory clause. Congress should craft a law that uses those words in such a way that courts will be forced to rule on the constitutionality of of the words "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state." Congress must act to regulate and secure our rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Album Notes for "Four With Forest"

My son Forest (1972-2008) and I did a lot of home recording together for a couple of years in the early century. Yeah, it was a special time for us. Forest played piano, keyboards, percussion (on whatever was at hand), and that excellent bass. Oh, he also sang his ass off in the background.
I've taken the digital recorder we used into studios to clean up the sound. Some of our work is on "Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs" and now I've a digital release called "Four With Forest." I went to the fine Elephonic Studios in Albuquerque and worked with Jesse Korman on these four songs. Hear the full songs here at CD Baby The EP opens with "Williwas," a song inspired by the famous Southeastern Alaska winds and crab fishing. Hey check it out below. I'd like the song to appear on The Deadliest Catch; that'd be nice. If it does I'll owe a lot to Forest's keyboard riffs. "Gale winds 40 knots, still pullin' crab pots. Captain calls all the shots; he's dry, we're not. Willie was."

The second song is "That's Why I'm So Shook" with Forest at his honky-tonk finest. "I don't need your thoughtlessness; I've grown cold to your hard caress."

I wrote "I Didn't See You" right after my first trip to Alaska on a state ferry, the Wickersham. Dig Forest's bass line and Hammond organ. "Maybe you were in a bar in New York City or loving Louisiana living with a Bourbon Street high. Maybe you were on that same boat with me, and I passed with a far-away look in my eye."
"In the End" resonates today in ways I wish it did not, but in the end, we lost Forest and all that good music he never got to play.
It's up on Spotify, CD Baby and all the usual suspects.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Album Notes for "Texas Dance Songs"

I miss the mere size of old lp records with pictures you can see and notes on the back you don't have to unfold and squint at. These are the album notes for my CD I call "Texas Dance Songs."
Every third of July as I grew up I watched my Uncle Joe Dunn play his fiddle and lead a band of Dunns through some fine old songs and hymns. When the '60s Folk Boom hit I was primed to learn guitar and when I heard Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan - well it was all over. I was twelve and I taught myself to play, but of course I had been playing violin since the fourth grade so I thank the Amarillo, Texas Public School District for teaching me to read music.
Well, in 2011, my wife Rosemary encouraged me to go to Austin and see if I could get something going. I found the open mic at the Cheatham Street Warehouse run by the great Kent Finlay. He had a studio, the Woodshed, and could get you any backup musician you needed. It all depended on how much you could pay the player. Rosemary was eager to pay for a record. I thought that if I could get some recognition I could bring my son's songs to the attention of the world.
I thought I'd get a country band sound complete with fiddle and steel guitar, but then I heard Big John Mills play an acoustic set at Cheatham Street. My God, what a talent! Kent's son Sterling is a fine upright bass man. I thought about one of my favorite old records - Gordon Lightfoot's first album. It's all Gordon singing and playing guitar, a lead guitar, and an upright bass, so that's how we did it. I even copied Gordon by having one song that was just bass and voice - "Pack Rat Nest." Sterling and I did that in one take.
I was determined to play ensemble style, not lay down track by track. The first song we recorded was "Cockroach Fever."  Nailed it in two takes. I labeled it as explicit when I listed it with CD Baby which I wish I hadn't done especially because if you see the album on Amazon they have every single song labeled "explicit." My favorite cousin, a strict Southern Baptist loves it so it sure ain't dirty.
As that first day sailed along we recorded most of what became "Texas Dance Songs" and several of the songs on "Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs." I was mighty proud that I kept up with Big John and Sterling. We clicked. Late in the session we were playing some song and my mind drifted into how amazing it sounded and - I fucked it up. After that I bowed out for two songs. I had lyrics and chords written out. I played a few bars of each song to give them the idea and then they played. What came out was beautiful, but it wasn't those two songs anymore so I put them on the back burner.  After Big John and Sterling left I laid down my guitar part for Rosemary's two favorites - "I Never Waltzed With You" and "In Our Dance" - because I was afraid I wouldn't capture the lilt of those two songs in the ensemble setting.
The second day we finished up. Then Big John laid down electric lead parts on some songs that Forest and I had recorded around 2000. 'Round and 'Round is one of those. More on that when I write notes on "Texas Socialist Dance Songs."
It had been a prolific session. I was happier than I had been for a long time.
Next year, 2012, was also a prolific year. I wrote seven new songs in a month or so. After recording that album (Contrary) I sat in a motel room and wrote four chord progressions using the common chords from the diatonic scale - major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished. It was an exercise for old three chord Burl. I asked Big John to play those chords but didn't specify how. Then Johnny Arredondo added drums. I was so amazed with the results that I offered Big John the chance to own half of the copyright and performance rights in exchange for free work later. I tried to offer that twice, but each time, before I even got the whole concept of the deal out of my mouth he turned it down. It makes me think of all those guys going to the California Gold Rush (me) who went broke and the one who set up a supply store (Big John) and made fortunes. The two best of these songs are on Texas Dance Songs: "Top Down" and "Just Us Chickens."
 All my albums can be heard on Spotify and some other online stations. All my albums can be downloaded from iTunes, amazon, CD Baby and others.  I go by my middle name, Burl, because if you google "Burl Dunn" it's easy to find. Try it! Thanks.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Album Notes for "Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs"

I titled this album with tongue slightly in cheek. Most of the songs are fun and non-political. But, I do not believe that “In the beginning God created heaven and the earth” so that T. Boone Pickens could own and control the water. I do not believe that “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good” so that Monsanto could co-opt the sacred process and become the god of seeds.
I do believe in the Public Library, Public Health Departments, and Community Fire Departments. You see, much of what Socialism does is to provide a democratic control of things that, by logic and By God belong to the People and for the People. The early basis for laws governing broadcast radio and later TV, was that the “airwaves” belong to the People. I see no difference now that we have cable and the internet. The electromagnetic spectrum was always in the “airwaves.”
Many grandparents and great-grandparents of today’s Texans were farmers and they knew exactly who their enemies were: national banks, corporate and private monopolies topped the list. Lampasas and Parker Counties were hotbeds of activity for populist causes like cooperatives and water rights. And, Texas was the only southern state whose Farmer’s Alliance was open to black farmers!
Remember, before George W. and Rick Perry the Governor of Texas was Ann Richards. Jim Hightower was the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture. Mr. Hightower (who, by the way, has great taste in hats as well as quips) managed the presidential campaign of the great Oklahoma Senator Fred Roy Harris. In one of Senator Harris’ novels an Okie grandmother expresses Biblically based disgust at the practice of making money from loans instead of work.
So just put it out of your heads that Texas is nothing but a bunch of gun-nut, racist yahoos. It’s half progressive and overdue for a progressive comeback. So keep on coming to Austin in the springtime. Keep on being the freak you are and don’t let the current national insanity overwhelm you. Don’t blame Texas.
If you take out the tragedy of the Viet Nam War from the legacy of LBJ he was one fine president. I am no more a party-line Socialist than I am a party-line Democrat. As to the title, I'll quote an old Seattle friend named Robert Smith, "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke!"
Before I had my albums replicated by CD Baby I burned them on my computer. Naturally, after the first year I recorded with Big John Mills and Sterling Finlay I put all the songs I liked from that year on the CD. I had Contrary replicated first because it was all such a fresh creation and I was so proud of it. My wife did not like Contrary's guns and threats and murder AT ALL, but I put it out first. When I was preparing Texas Dance Songs I followed Big John's advice. He said why put in a controversial song or two on an album that otherwise is dance music? So I saved all my political stuff. "Demand and Supply" was recorded the first or second day of the first year. Big John counted us in at a tempo way faster than I had ever played it and man, it improved the song 100%. You can just hear how much fun we had. And, by the way, the song is about private property rights - sorta strange for a socialist album, eh? 
Neither Big John nor Sterling said a word about "I Wasn't Born in the Homeland," and trust me, if Big John was offended he would have let me know one way or another. I'm not saying they agreed with every word, just that they played it quite sweetly. By the time we did "My Magical Horse" Big John was so into his big lyrical sound that I stopped the first take and said, "Hey man, it's just a simple folk song. It doesn't need to sound majestic." 
In 2011 engineer Russell Tanner fed and mixed some recordings that my son, Forest Arturo Dunn, and I had recorded on an early Roland digital workstation. Forest added so many tracks that he had to do a lot of bouncing and Russell worked hard with some fancy plug-ins to bring out some aspects, such as Forest's piano playing. Big John used his Tele to overdub parts on "The Real Thing" and "Bar Talk."
Forest spent his last years in Tucson and he had a great drummer friend named Rick Moe. Forest told me that the first tracks he did for Bar Talk was Rick's drums. I wasn't there and Forest did not play along. Imagine that! He somehow communicated every nuance of that song to Rick and Rick wailed out every beat and every change. Then Forest added all his parts and finally I came to town and did rhythm guitar and sang as the very last things! That's the kind of talent we lost when we lost Forest. And Rick, I sure hope you are in a great band in New York City or wherever you are now. Nobody sounds like Rick Moe except Rick.
Kundalini Baby and Don Felp's '65 Ford were the only songs on this album from the 2013 session. I heard Don in Austin and fell in love with his songs. Don is a real deal cowboy tall drink of water writer and I thank him for working out publishing so that I could record his song without it just being a handshake deal. It's published by Don and registered with BMI. 
All my albums can be heard on Spotify and some other online stations. All my albums can be downloaded from iTunes, amazon, CD Baby and others. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Album Notes for "Contrary"

In the winter of 2011 I first took my best friend, the rez dog Edy, with me to Texas. We went to Padre Island where I had memories of my baby Forest Arturo Dunn in a Snugglie on Mama's chest and sea birds flying over his head. I practiced up on old and new songs that I thought might go well at open mics in Austin. As I described in the album notes for "Texas Dance Songs" I ended up recording with Big John Mills and Sterling Finlay at the Woodshed Studios of the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas. Russell Tanner, engineer.
With the thrill of a successful session in memory I was more inspired about writing than I had been for decades. For 2012 I had an idea for a song cycle - concept album - whatever you want to call it. I had some of it written but mostly I finished it on the beach. I scattered some of the few ashes I had of my son's body on the beach. I drank, wrote, played, and walked with dear old Edy who was obviously in her last years with me.
My concept was highly influenced by the news. I had been reading so many stories of men released from prison after DNA evidence proved their innocence. I was wondering how many poor innocent victims had been tortured at Abu Ghraib and were being tortured at Guantanamo and at secret prisons around the world. I knew in my heart that America was creating future terrorists by these actions. When reading about Americans released after being cleared of rape, murder, and other crimes by DNA evidence I was always struck by the statements and apparent attitudes of these men. Where was their anger? Had it been burned out by religion? Had they become passive due to an overload of injustice?
I wrote "Confession" from the point of view of a man who was confessing that, by God, he was going to kill that damn, lying judge who sent him away unjustly. But as I began "Tattooed With Regret" I knew I didn't want to finish the album with the concept of killing. And I knew I wasn't going to have the man find religion. No, I turned to a theme close to my heart - the idea of living invisibly - the theme of many of my short stories like "The Meadow." It's only in the last two songs that it becomes clear how the man will end up.
As a country murder ballad, I'm very proud of "Fear the Man." "Riverside Blues" is actually a song I wrote around 1969 and I use it as the turn-around moment when he turns his heart from hatred to his strange future.
Anyway, here's the story of the recording of "Contrary." I said to Kent Finlay, the American Treasure, patron of songwriters, that I wanted a drummer who just used a snare drum, but who used every inch of it - like I've seen on the streets and in the bars in Mexico. Poor guy who only has that snare drum, sticks, and brushes. And wails, Man. And I wanted to start with a song that is only drums and guitar. Kent said it was unusual but he got me Johnny Arredondo. Thanks Kent!
So Johnny shows up with a nice big kit and cases of percussion instruments. Oh well. Russell Tanner sets us up in separate rooms but where we can see each other and we work out for a bit. The sweet drum intro is where he was at about a minute into my original idea. He counted me in - 1,2,3,4."
I must say, I was not shy in asking to do something in the studio. I had recorded - the most important being the lovely year when Forest Arturo Dunn, my son, played with me. I'll talk more about those for the album notes of "Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs Instigated and Agitated by Burl Dunn."
When we did the first track of "Light My Last Cigarette" I just played a 12 bar blues hitting one chord per measure on the first beat. The track was meant to be dropped, I just wanted to give Johnny free reign on how he played it. The next day (half drunk) I said, "Johnny, can you turn this s*** into wine?" But after about few minutes he asked, "What do you want me to do with this?" I said, "Play it like it's 1962 and you're backing the stripper at Jack Ruby's club in Dallas." And he grinned and did.

I laid down "Riverside Blues" on my nylon string guitar and wanted to try a better take the next day, but Johnny and Russell kept saying leave it so I did. I can't remember how many tracks they used for the drums and percussion. I just drank beer and enjoyed my money's worth! (As an aside, I'll tell you that working with pros at the Woodshed can be more affordable than you'd imagine.) Uh, that's not a dispersion on Johnny's playing. Russell must have told him that it was my daughter Hannah's and her brother's favorite. When he finished he said, "I'll live forever 'cause I played on that song." I wish it didn't look sappy on the printed page. Johnny treated me totally as a peer.
The last two songs where my twisted ideas appear have a funny musical story. Big John Mills, on about 10 seconds of hearing my playing before turning it over to him, improvised a sweet song along with Sterling Finlay. I rewrote the words and melody accordingly. "Let's Go Now" is the same chords as "Round and 'Round." ! You'd have to listen to them back to back to get the irony of that!
I was working on the lyrics to "Let's Go Now" in a motel early one morning. Rosemary was sleeping and I had headphones on. I forgot that my voice was something she'd hear. So she wakes up to me saying, "Shhhh, are you ready? Let's go now? Are you ready? I've got the feeling, I've seen the light..." Rosemary is fun.

If you google "Burl Dunn" that's me. Or just type my name into your favorite download page. I'm a "CD Baby." All albums on Spotify.
My Pandora station just added a lot of new songs from my two albums there.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Donald Trump proves Gore Vidal right.

Before the rise of Donald Trump I thought the Republican Party was rigged and under the thumb of an elite group. I believed that Al Gore and John Kerry were elected President and the elite Republicans robbed them. I believed George W. Bush was an inevitable candidate. The rise of Trump would have been impossible in such an organized conspiracy. Oh, Gore and Kerry were robbed all right, robbed by officials in states such as Ohio and Florida, robbed by the Supreme Court majority, but no Republican nation-wide conspiracy would have allowed a loose cannon like Trump to emerge. When Trump puts down Bush for allowing 9/11 I sit in amazement that I can actually agree with the man on something. No Republican elite could have allowed such a candidate.
Recently, I watched a documentary in which the late, great man Gore Vidal predicted that we were seeing the downfall of the Republican Party. (Gore Vidal: the United States of Amnesia) He felt that John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney were the harbingers of doom. Vidal was always one step ahead of the common politicos, who now say that Trump is the sign of Republican doom. Donald Trump is the proof, not the sign. Who knows how the Grand Old Party can recover? Vidal is gone, but he already made his statement. The GOP can't recover at a national level, but they can still pull the electronic levers in critical states. They can still pull dirty tricks that win close elections. Will they go all out for Trump in the end if he wins the nomination? Won't they have too?
May God and sane Americans overwhelmingly elect the Democratic nominee. May they give us a big majority in Congress. We must leave Donald Trump and the Republicans in the dust bin of history where Gore Vidal knew they were heading.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Is this a Chamberlain Moment or Zen at the Oregon Standoff?

Just musing, but what can one forecast about the Bundy militia standoff in Oregon? Well the weather forecast for the next four days calls for a good chance of snow with low temperatures in the low 20s. That won’t do it. If the weather is to play a factor in ending the standoff, we need lows around and below zero and highs below freezing. We need them to burn up their fuel and get miserably cold.
Forecasting other things? Chancy, but don’t we all have our thoughts? I think the power company should rewire the junction that is shared with ranchers. Isolate the wildlife refuge’s power and shut ‘er down. Surely the government has not been allowing truck loads of wood to the militia. Or, God forbid, a propane truck. 
But who knows? The feds are not leaking to the press or announcing to the public and I won’t complain about that. They obviously want a peaceful solution, but in the long run is that possible? As I said in my previous blog some future militia (or armed group of whatever name) could have the county sheriff’s office siding physically with them. Everybody wants to be a hero. Is this a Chamberlain Moment?

So I forecast this: The government will cut the electricity. Disallow anything or anyone coming in unless it is a driver with food and medicine. No arctic clothes; no coats. The counties allied together will block the road; federal officers, SWAT, etc will stage from wherever the strategists think best (not to would be insanity). An Arctic coldfront will hit. As freezing people approach the staging areas bullhorns will blast out the conditions: Keep your guns out of your hands. You will keep your guns. You will be served with charges and escorted out of state. You may go home.

That’s what I predict. It’s hard to imagine my government just let them walk, but… as long as I’m musing I’ll predict what the militia will do. The Bundy group will come out peaceably; outside militias are another story. In my scenario of how cops and feds, etc. (National Guard?) are deployed, the rear could become a new front. Roads come in and roads go out. Outside armed people are coming to “help.” It’s already happened. Won’t they be stopped? If all of them are allowed in to talk to Ammon Bundy then I can’t fathom the minds of the feds, but that could happen because of reluctance on the part of our government to use armed force? Or else the plan is pure Zen – let them all cage themselves in and fester? The more the merrier? Forever? 
No, no, then send in the whiskey.