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.

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