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.