Abner Burnett

Abner Burnett

 Mission, Texas, USA
BandAmericanaSinger/Songwriter

Honorable Mention in World Music, 2007 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. His work has been compared to John Hiatt, Randy Newman, Fred Neil, and Steve Reich. His musical styles range from Folk & Americana to Jazz and Electronica; his lyrics go from bawdy and irreverent to pensive and metaphysical.

Biography

"Burnett has more to tell us about the joys and ultimate tragedy of the human condition than a dozen sociological treatises." City Life

Excerpts from "Abner Burnett - The Biography"
By Mike Butler ~ February 24, 2010

Born March 4, 1953, Odessa, Texas. Burnett showed precocious talent - he won a national poetry competition at the age of twelve - but dropped out of high school to enroll in the University of Life. His name first appeared on vinyl - a 45 on an obscure label, Ignite Gram-o-phonics: Jerusalem b/w Alley Song - in 1968, when Burnett was 17. A debut album, Crash & Burn, appeared seven years later in 1975.

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The back cover of Crash & Burn, credited to Abner Burnett & the Burn-Outs, shows the artist in a photo-booth with two black eyes, sustained the night before in a bar-room brawl. Variously described as “low-budget jug-band psychedelia” or "acid casualty Texas outlaw rock with an unusual dark feel overall", the album opens with the arresting line, “I woke up this morning and my liver was walking out the door”.

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Burnett almost died on the same day as Elvis Presley when he was involved in an automobile accident following a pilgrimage to Fort Sumner to visit the grave of Billy The Kid. This incident makes sense of an inscription (“I had my wreck”) found on his second album, Old McDonald.

Old McDonald was recorded in 1977 in Roswell, New Mexico, famously the site of a UFO crash. More stylistically coherent than Crash & Burn, Old McDonald is an acoustic affair in the classic roots Americana style, with a setting of Herman Melville, covers of Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan, and a song, Bed of Roses, by Burnett's mentor, cowboy poet Buck Ramsey (the album's dedicatee).

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Manchester-based music journalist Mike Butler, an obsessive admirer of Old McDonald and its predecessor, Crash & Burn (discovered on a trip to Texas in 1991), penned a fan letter and sent it to the outdated PO Box No. on the back of Old McDonald. The ensuing correspondence resulted in low-key tours of the UK in 1997 and 1998. Following an ill-fated encounter with American Primitive guitarist John Fahey on the latter's final UK tour in 1999, Burnett teamed up with Johnny Moynihan (of Sweeney's Men; famed for introducing the bouzouki to traditional Irish music) for a tour of the UK in 2001.

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His last album, It Ought To Be Enough (2006), was conceived as a farewell to US folk-based song.

Lyrics

A Spirited Waltz

Written By: Abner Burnett

I'm off with new friends; we're out and we're crossing the line.
A long way from home but some of us probably right here
Looking at all that we see
Occasionally nicking a tree
We walk with a swagger
It might be a stagger
But none of us running from nothing
We feel fine tonight

Chorus: Let in the light, Let in the darkness
Family, the friend, the rival and foe
And when called to halt by the jealous believer
Dance a spirited waltz on the bridge of their nose

A cask of blue flowers, some dark earth, and one bluebird's cry;
Blue to the center and crying with smiles in our eyes;
The waxlike skin of the one who is rubble belies
The rules and rewards, love them all and love lots more besides.

Chorus:

And you, my dear Susan we'll slip in and out of disguise.
We'll float like soap bubbles, we'll kiss, pop, but not say goodbye.
The kids will find us in their time.
Nothing will wind and unwind.
And at night as we dance your sweet breath in my ear is a sign.

Chorus: We'll gather wild berries as we waltz through the deep woods.
We'll gather wild honey without wrecking the hive.
When the last call to arms and crusade is just echo
A waltz will be swaying the wind and the tides

Forgotten Road

Written By: Abner Burnett

"Forgotten Road" by Abner Burnett copyright © 1999; Worpt Publishing ASCAP
All Rights Reserved

My Mama said when I was young,
“Boy come look at what your Mom and Daddy have done.
Picked at the romance 'til even the bone
Is dried up and worthless and the feeling is gone.”

Then at fifteen I dropped out of school,
Looking for the "you know" like a lot of other fools;
Counting all the good times coloring up the bad;
Bragging about my future and lying about my past;

I've been in snow up to my waist.
Other times I couldn't even bum a taste.
Some of my friends they went snow-blind,
Hogging' the melon and eatin the rind

Maybe get old, Maybe get wise.
Hairs in my Nose and Dust in my Eyes.
Unwrapping vices 'til the yen disappears,
And I'm just a whistle that my baby hears.

Now that I'm dead, what can I say?
I guess it's just another one of those things.
A blanket of buttercups by the long desert road,
Where the blue angel leans on a forgotten milepost.

My grandma said when I was young,
“Boy, come and sit with your old grandmama some.
We'll read about the Minotaur and the lamb's fleece of gold,
And the mountain wherein waits the magic boy's throne”

A Woman's Quiet Night

Written By: Marty Kuwahara

A Woman’s Quiet Night
Words and Music by Marty Kuwahara
Copyright 1998 © Abner Burnett
& Worpt Publishing ASCAP
All Rights Reserved

A woman’s quiet night with her daylight in sight, I know
I could live my whole life again
I’d be satisfied.

The feelings that you hide when you’re feeling sad inside,I know
I could live my whole life again
I’d be satisfied.

Chorus:
If I could only give you tomorrow, I’d be satisfied.
If I could only give you tomorrow, I’d be satisfied.

Round the Bay of Mexico

Written By: Traditional Tune Arranged by Abner Burnett

THE BAY OF MEXICO

Round the Bay o Mexico, Suzyanna
Mexico is the place that I belong in
Round the Bay of Mexico

Nassau girls they love me so, Suzyanna,
Because I don’t tell everything that I know
Round the Bay of Mexico

Nassau girls don’t use no combs, Suzyanna,
They comb their hair with whippersnapper bones
Round the Bay of Mexico

Nassau Boys don’t use no sleds, Suzyanna
The slide down hills on whippersnapper heads
Round the Bay of Mexico

Goodbye girls of Nassau town, Suzyanna
I’m going away to the fishing ground
Round the Bay of Mexico

Round the Bay o Mexico, Suzyanna
Mexico is the place that I belong in
Round the Bay of Mexico

The Whistlin' Diane

Written By: Abner Burnett

A sailing vessel,
The Whistlin’ Diane,
A ketch at port in Baltimore,
Where the birthday was held for the Lady Siobhan.
With red hair from sandstone to rosewood and further,
Her sisters cast emerald to sharply drawn men
Of charcoal hair and chilly blue eyes.
Her sisters cast emerald to softly drawn men
With no hair, no eyes, and menacing skin.

Two days from Dublin through Ballymore Eustace
The wheel, the pen, and a howling mongrel
Took heart in remembrance which welcomed them rest.
In spring's coy look for a moment they took
The gem filtered liqueur whose fragrance remains,
But one drop reflected in the strong freckled bosom
Whose sweat always quenches the short stringer’s light.
Then venom and abandonments browned their gray eyes.

Strawberry sweet cake and Dark Belgian chocolate;
Cayuse pony by the stone bridge.
Racing the northbound black birds to Cork.
Portuguese wine, spired stone churches, battered castles and keeps,
They stayed in Killaloe ‘til Bernadette, the Barmaid told them to shoo
They proposed an old saying, and announced they were through,
Then set out for Dublin as if nothing was new.

The waves kissed the anchor line, and the wind kissed the hull.

The Whistlin’ Diane lay in the cove,
And at Declan McCarthy’s there wrestled the crew
With what kind of whiskey and how they might screw.
Siobhan and her sisters danced with their youths.
No table was empty as luck turned to juice,
As chins shined with dribble and weasels were loosed.
No sin was enabled. No light was derived.
Nothing, true and eternal, saved everyone’s life.

And the waves kissed the anchor line, and the wind kissed the hull.

Two Bit Lawyer

Written By: Abner Burnett

Two Bit lawyer in a windworn town,
Khaki pants, cotton coat, Loose tie hanging down.
For a small retainer someone can briefly own
A worldly reassurance that a preacher wouldn’t loan.
Calculating child support, negotiating pleas,
Petty crimes and family fights are mostly what he sees.
But, every case a landmark for someone’s been aggrieved;
A mighty fight for justice, but not much in the great scheme of things.

Resting on an ice chest are an ashtray and a pipe,
He waves a glass and makes room on the porch swing for his wife.
Her workday starts early and his workday ends late.
It was easier to make some time back when they used to date.
The son who’s dodging homework asks his dad again
About a courtroom victory he was not supposed to win.
The sounds drift from the highway rolling in like ocean waves
To a silhouetted trio on a porch in the languid evening shade.

A juror reads the verdict held in his unsteady hand.
When she hears him saying “Guilty”, a young girl weeps again.
And, then the word confinement and a mother starts to wail.
“We further find a deadly weapon”, makes the guilty man exhale.
The lawyer’s eyes go empty, recessed and adjourned,
Exsanguinated vessels where his client’s hope was churned.
Later, at his home he gulps the tonic of his trade.
There’s a breeze through the kitchen window
And on the porch the languid evening shade.

At a table in the corner of a Mexican café,
With his bookie’s latest lines and the Dallas News Sports Page,
And the file on a little case he’s set to try next week,
A lawbook, tabbed and dog-eared, a beer and bite to eat.
The notion that in some way he’s the keeper of a flame
Has not occurred so often as a farmer’s prayer brings rain.
The wind blows on a cotton field that a farmer can’t keep wet.
The lawyer plods towards Monday, preps his case and places bets.

The Father's Son

Written By: Abner Burnett

Down and out through the cellar door
Those who’ve won for the Father’s Son all the treasure that he denied.
Let the chains be bound with a ringing sound
That stirs the bones of lovers who’ve confessed and died.

Champions burdened with a jealous charge,
Their horses shift and paw the ground uneasily.
For the deed’s been done; the days of tolerance are finished
And the flag that flew for freedom flies for the Father’s Son.

Those who have naught, even that shall be taken.
Those who have got, they shall have it all.

Babylon in need of blood gives blame
And consecrates its cruelty with his name.
The victory airs are sung, but the lamb’s tears run
And the poet once freewheelin’ sings for the Father’s Son.

Pat Garrett's Lament

Written By: Abner Burnett

Shouldna stole that old man’s clothes
Snuck up the chimney and run down the road
Shouldna layed ol Windy Cahill low
When you started running you shouldna come home

Shoudna joined with Jesse’s crew
Singin and dancing and rustling too
Shouldna hung around Tunstall’s store
Shouldna got caught up in the Lincoln war

And when they shot Henry Tunstall down
You shouldna followed his boys to town
Shouldna shot Brady from behind the wall
Shouldna gone to Blazer’s Mill at all

Oh, Catarina, where’d we go wrong with that boy?
He used to be a joy.

When we shot Tom O’Folliard you shouldna run
The last words he heard were “Take your medicine, son”
Shouldna taken that old back road
To Stinkin Springs leavin tracks in the snow

Deputy Bell you never should have shot.
Bob Ollinger maybe he deserved what he got.
Shouldna got famous for what you done
Shoulda left the territory when I told you, son.

Shouldna thought love was gonna stand you up
When you got thirsty, it would bring you a cup
Shouldn’ve fooled with Pete Maxwell’s girl
Damn sure shouldna come back for her.

Oh, Deluvina, where’d we go wrong with that boy?
He used to be a joy.

I wish you’d have never walked in that room.
Even in the dark I knew it was you.
Maybe I shouldna been there myself,
But if it hadna been me it woulda been someone else.

Now they done me worse than I did you
Shot in the back and by a god friend, too.
Now I’m walkin that forgotten road
Looking for you where the wind won’t blow.

Oh Billito, I’m sorry for what I’ve done.
Where did we go wrong?

Discography

1968 – 45RPM- Abner Burnett -Jerusalem-The Alley Song-Ignite Records
1975- LP – Abner Burnett and the Burnouts - Crash and Burn –Worpt Records
1979 – LP – Abner Burnett – Old McDonald – Worpt Records
1997- CD – Abner Burnett – 1975-1979- Worpt
2001 – CD - Abner Burnett – Calavera - Worpt
2004 - CD – Abner Burnett – Sal Si Puedes Worpt
2005 – MP3 – Abner Burnett – Hold On - Worpt
2008 - CD - Abner Burnett - It Ought to Be Enough

Set List

As a solo performer I am used to playing sets from 45 to 75 minutes. The tunes run from about 3 to 4 1/2 minutes. If I do covers, they are usually standards in the Blues or Folk vernacular, occasionally a Popular standard such as "Beyond the Sea" or "King of the Road".

Some songs that might be included in a typical acoustic set:

Key to the Highway (Cover);
Someone Else's Hunger (Original);
Beyond the Sea (Cover);
Why Do I Still Think About You (Original);
Two Bit Lawyer (Original);
Honky Tonkin' (Cover);
Round the Bay of Mexico (Traditional);
The Father's Son (Original)
You Love Me Baby, and I Don't Blame You (Original)