Friday, March 10, 2006

"Chimes of Freedom Flashing" 

Rob Patterson on the Burns Sisters:
At this critical juncture in this nation's history, music to move, inform and inspire the masses was in woefully short supply at folkie central. Hamell On Trial, the subject of my last column, was a notable exception. "This is what I wanted to hear more of here," said Marie Burns of The Burns Sisters, the other notable exception, as Hamell tore it up with revolutionary fervor.


Where so many others of my generation have forsaken the spirit of the 1960s, the lovely and exceptionally talented Burns Sisters are diligently applying their gorgeous and magical three-part harmonies, among a number of other gifts, to the cause. I last heard them back in August at Camp Casey in Crawford, where, on the final Sunday of Cindy Sheehan's vigil, they sang a rosary with Martin Sheen (my President) for her son Casey and all the other American soldiers who have died in the senseless war in Iraq.

This time, the sisters -- who have made quite a good name for themselves in the folk world -- were like the angels of political and social hope bringing light through the dark clouds of post-9/11 America. Their take on "God's Promise," a Woody Guthrie lyric set to music by Ellis Paul, is a gorgeous hymn for humanity. Conversely, their performance of Guthrie's "Vigilante Man" during a Woody tribute showed how three beautiful voices can be wielded like the sharp edge of a sword.


And Marie, Annie and Jeannie aren't the only members of the Burns family who are willing to put their genuine morals where their mouths are to try to stem the madness of the Bush war machine. Their younger brother Danny is one of the St. Patrick's Four -- Catholic lay workers who, on March 17, 2003, poured blood on the entrance to a military recruiting station in Ithaca and the proverbially tattered American flag to protest the senseless spilling of the very stuff of life ( They were sentenced for their righteous and religiously-inspired act of civil disobedience in the great American tradition in a federal court in our mutual hometown of Binghamton by a judge whose family, like the Burns clan and the Pattersons, came from the same social milieu. Danny is now serving a six-month jail sentence in a federal lockup in Brooklyn.

Do yourself a favor - please read story in full at The Progressive Populist

The Burns Sisters
Marie Burns (music for people who love dogs)

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Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An' for each an' ev'ry underdog soldier in the night
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An' the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an' cheated by pursuit
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An' for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look
Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

~ Chimes of Freedom - Bob Dylan (1964)



Far out on the desert to the north dustspouts rose wobbling and augered the earth and some said they'd heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang. Out of that whirlwind no voice spoke and the pilgrim lying in his broken bones may cry out and in his anguish he may rage, but rage at what? And if the dried and blackened shell of him is found among the sands by travelers to come yet who can discover the engine of his ruin? ~ Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian

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