McCarthy Trenching




Perfect Game

released Oct. 23, 2020

1. Why Don't I See You Anymore?
2. Phaethon
3. Asking For a Friend
4. Fruitless Beauty
5. Red Maple (with video)
6. The Glorious Giving In (with video)
7. Russian Olive
8. I Didn't Come to Town to Get a Haircut
9. Winter Solstice, Post Office
10. Pacific Grove

Perfect Game album cover

lyrics & credits


More Like It

released Nov. 3, 2015

1. Head Waters
2. Fifty Times a Day
3. Laguna Beach
4. Ogallala Aquifer
5. Mean Thing on My Mind
6. No, I'm Sure You're Right
7. Keep the Devil Away
8. Air Force One
9. Christmas 1974
10. Steadfast Friendship

More Like It album cover

lyrics & credits


Plays the Piano

released Oct. 2012

1. 2:47, July 18, 2011
2. The Favorite
3. Ponderosa Village
4. 29 (with video)
5. Swipesy
6. Evil/Free Will
7. The Ballad of Dorothy Lynch
8. Solace

Plays the Piano album cover

lyrics & credits


Fresh Blood

released Oct. 2011

1. The Barroom and I (Sure Miss You)
2. Hard Heart
3. You Can Count on Me
4. Oh Nancy (with video)
5. Picking at Scabs
6. Theoretical Love Song (with Gus & Call)
7. Wants

Fresh Blood album cover

lyrics & credits


Perfect Game


Recorded and mixed by James Schroeder at ARC in Omaha, Nebr., September 2020. Adam Roberts helped engineer and was an all-around problem-solver.

Kevin Donahue: drums, percussion
Stefanie Drootin: singing on “Phaethon”
Colin Duckworth: electric guitar, dobro
Dan McCarthy: guitar, piano, accordion, singing
James Maakestad: upright bass, singing, string arrangements
Morgan Nagler: singing on “Phaethon”
Megan Siebe: cello, viola, violin, string arrangements

Horn arrangements by Luke Annis
Luke Annis: trombone
Lauren Milbourn: clarinet, bass clarinet
Brian Nelsen: trumpet
Hector Tornez: saxophone

Mastered by Doug Van Sloun at Focus Mastering in Omaha, Nebr.

All songs by McCarthy Trenching (SESAC)


In the week leading up to the recording of this album, I went out to mow the lawn and found that the red maple tree between the sidewalk and the curb had cracked in half. Not from a storm or any other violence, just from the way it had grown. Until that day, I believed it was healthy and that it would outlive me. The red maple was still standing, its leaves just starting to turn in mid-September, but it was badly injured. I had planted it twelve years before, after the previous resident of that spot, a large linden tree, was uprooted in a severe storm.

I called Jack Phillips and asked if he would come take a look. He did right away, and told me the situation was dangerous. It was likely that the tree would fall onto a car or a pedestrian, maybe very soon. He called his associate Keith to tie a rope around the limbs and trunk to stabilize the tree for the time being, but there was no option other than removal. The city foresters came the next day, and it took them about twenty minutes to remove the tree that I had looked at nearly every day for a dozen years, the view out my window when I practice piano.

Thanks to Jack for his book The Bur Oak Manifesto, and for providing me with a new tree for the front yard, a red oak grown from an acorn harvested in an old grove in Iowa.

Other debts and books:

I wrote “The Glorious Giving In” for the band High Up, which starred the Fink sisters, Christine and Orenda. At their second performance, I heard them singing a dynamite version of “Lovely Still” and thought, I want to write a song for this band. The phrase “glorious ‘giving in’” is from David Foster Wallace.

“I Didn’t Come to Town to Get a Haircut” is something I heard my uncle Jerry say once. Jerry started the actual business called McCarthy Trenching, which does water and sewer projects in Iowa. I wrote this song for Dolores Diaz and the Stand-By Club, and I hope that band can perform it someday.

Some details in “Russian Olive” came from my grandma, Marie McCarthy, but any errors of fact or feeling are mine. Grandma is honest, and her memory is good. The musical quotation at the beginning of the song is, of course, Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1.”

“Asking for a Friend” owes something to Sigrid Nunez’s book The Friend. A tactic, maybe, and an awareness of a dog audience.

“Phaethon” owes some of its story to Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, an essential reference.

The Sibley Guide to Trees is another essential reference, most every day, when I haven’t lent my copy to somebody.

Just before making the album and quite a while after “Fruitless Beauty” was written, I read this in Eula Biss’s Having and Being Had: “I wade through the field of wild raspberries, the thorns tearing at my clothes, and this task seems newly impossible. The pursuit of beauty is fruitless, I think.”

That’s all right with me.

Yours truly,

"Why Don’t I See You Anymore?"

Did your career take off, are you traveling all the time
Doing your part to launch the new product line
Did you get a big promotion, are you winning awards
Why don’t I see you anymore?

Did you stumble on a corner of the internet and make a bunch of friends
And decide you wanted to spend most of your time with them
With all that surveillance, you should never feel ignored
Why don’t I see you anymore?

Did you come to the conclusion that everybody’s full of shit
And you’d never meet anyone who wasn’t a hypocrite
Or did you do the opposite and fall for the Lord
Why don’t I see you anymore?

Did you move to that town in Iowa to bake bread and meditate
You know I was born in that agricultural, transcendental state
Or did you settle in the desert, find some ground you could afford
Why don’t I see you anymore?

Did you find a better way to watch movies at home
Did you finally realize you’d rather be alone
Or was I one of your husband’s friends that you lost in the divorce
Why don’t I see you anymore?

Did you come down with something the doctors couldn’t name
Did your heart stop beating, but they kept alive your brain
Did you hit your head on the table and lie writhing on the floor
Why don’t I see you anymore?


The god of the sun had a son
But the kid didn’t see his dad much
The dad had to be at work at dawn
And was high overhead at lunch
But mostly, he just didn’t make time
And though he wanted to keep his son out of danger
By the time he showed up, the kid was grown up
And didn’t want advice from a stranger

It was a fairly typical death
The kid in a fiery wreck
Kind of unbelievably tragic
And kind of what we expect
What I like is what happened next
His sisters gathered down by the river
It was there that their bodies turned into poplar trees
And their teardrops turned into amber

I like having friends who write songs
You can summon them whenever you want
They’re easy to get on the phone
Even when they’re long gone
I wanted to write you a song
To preserve our friendship in amber
Between you and me, the tears of a tree
That’s an image I’d like to remember

"Asking For a Friend"

I have a friend, all weekend long
Wants to sit on his couch and watch football
He has the mind of a nine-year-old
Lucky for him, he was only born nine years ago
His mom and dad let him watch one game
On Saturday, and one on Sunday
They make him read every day and sit down for dinner
What he likes best is cheering for a winner
But he likes me anyway

I have a friend teaches yoga classes
I’ve taken a couple, and they’ve kicked my asses
She doesn’t eat meat, and I still do
She loves her dog, his name is Bruce
We nearly lost him in a river once
He’d never swum in a current, and he’d never seen ducks
My friend jumped in chasing after Bruce
I didn’t even take off my shoes
But she likes me anyway
She’s forgiven me

Forgiveness is an unusual word
It can be freely bestowed, or laboriously earned
By my age, I hope you’ve learned
We’ll each need forgiveness in our turn

I have a friend with a broken heart
When he tries to put it together, it’s always missing a couple parts
But it still seems to be pumping blood
And if you ask me, it’s still capable of love
Aren’t we all alone in the end?
I’m asking for a friend
Everything I’ve done he thought of it first
And he’s certainly seen me at my worst
But he likes me anyway

Forgiveness is an unusual word
I’m talking how the noun is formed from the verb
Go on and call me a nerd
We’ll each need forgiveness in our turn

"Fruitless Beauty"

Cottonwood, cottonwood
You don’t do no one no good
Your cotton cannot be spun
And your wood is too spongy for lumber

Flower child, flower child
You let your lawn grow wild
They say we make ourselves better with labor
And it’s nicer when it looks like the neighbors’

Fruitless beauty, with no reason why
You can always make up a story
Like for patterns of stars in the sky

Mockingbird, mockingbird
How many tunes have you learned
Do you ask the other birds’ permission
Or do you just perch on their branch and listen

Perfect game, perfect game
What’s in a name
Let’s make some mistakes not mean failure
And we can work on our serves the whole year

Fruitless beauty, not so hard to find
Given time to pay attention
And the canvas of a quiet mind

Firefly, firefly
I’m sure some scientist knows why
You put on a spectacle at twilight
The golden glow and slow flight

Little dance, little dance
What’s the circumstance
You were coming back from the bathroom
And you executed a groovy little move

Fruitless beauty: pecan pie
The stupid jokes you make to yourself
And the way your own mind can surprise you

"Red Maple"

Video by Harrison Martin


The red maple we planted between the sidewalk and the curb
Is taller than the house now, and the leaves are starting to turn
You’d have called it crimson; you had a way with words
I miss you so much, I cry

Chocolate chips, flowers, and toothpaste
I made a list, but today it seems useless
Sweetness and beauty, and not being toothless
I miss you so much, I cry

Had we wanted a symbol, we’d have planted an oak
But I liked a maple’s color and how fast it grows
This year, it’s darker: it’s almost purple
I miss you so much, I cry

"The Glorious Giving In"

Director + Producer: Tessa V. Wedberg

Performer: Gabrielle Johnson
Featuring: Meredith McMullen

16mm Cinematographer: Bridget McQuillan & Kristin Zahra
8mm family reels/found footage: The Wedberg Family

Edit + Animation: Kristin Zahra

Color Correct: Jonathan Tvrdik

Hand processed Kodak 3378 Hi-Con film, courtesy Echo Park Film Center


After the show goes better than you hoped
After a week of white-knuckled hanging on
After a month of relying on that shitty city bus
After a year when you forgot what it felt like to have fun
It was glorious giving in

That first sip, as sweet as a first kiss
And it comes with the same risks
It might wreck your life
But it might be worth it
And it can be glorious giving in

When you deny yourself too long
You get eaten up by what you lack
What’s the use in being strong
When you’re spending all your power
Just holding yourself back
From that glorious giving in

If it weren’t wonderful
If it didn’t feel good
They wouldn’t call it

I don’t believe that some apple tempted Eve
In the Garden of Eden
I don’t believe it was some serpent
I bet she just got bored with her husband
And it was glorious giving in

"Russian Olive"

Russian olive tree, silvery-green

They scraped a great swath of countryside
To make the interstates
And it came to Mamie
To start a tree-planting campaign

She chose the Russian olive tree
That kite-killing beauty
An emblem of the enemy
What a wonderful dream
To achieve world peace
By planting trees

Unlike peace
The Russian olive tree
Has proved to be
A highly invasive species

"I Didn't Come to Town to Get a Haircut"

I didn’t come to town to get a haircut
There ain’t a barber anymore
But there is a bar, and they do have beer
And that’s what I came to town for
I’d like to buy a round for everybody here
I didn’t come to town to get a haircut
I came to town to drink beer

I didn’t come to town in a pickup truck
I didn’t get here in a car
The train quit running eighty years ago
And the walk is awful far
I rode my bicycle, buddy
And I’m gonna ride it home
You can hop on the handlebars, man
It you ain’t got a ride of your own

I didn’t come to town until I’d mowed the lawn
And scrubbed the kitchen floor
And folded all the laundry
Put my drawers in their drawer
And I watered the sauerkraut
And the houseplants, too
Everything’s all squared away
Except for me and you

Here comes Chickinelli
He’s in the same boat as me
His family can never find him
Where he said he’s gonna be
We got a lot in common
It’s like looking in the mirror
Good to see ya
Never saw ya

I didn’t come to town, I never came to town
You can’t recall when you saw me last
What a pity, you heard I moved to the city
And was rooting for Nebraska
If anybody asks ya, you haven’t seen me in years
I didn’t come to town to get a haircut
And I never drink beer (or whiskey)

"Winter Solstice, Post Office"

Winter solstice, post office: like a tavern on St. Patrick’s Day
We regulars are getting the job done
You amateurs are just getting in the way
The man behind the counter’s disgruntled
Though I’ve never seen him gruntled yet
His commute began before first light
And he’ll be here till after sunset

The darkest day of the year
How I wish that you could mail away your sorrow
I’m not trying to bullshit a bright side
But the daylight will last longer tomorrow

Priority to Hawaii: do you think it’ll make it on time?
Her daughter just got out of the Army
And she’s making conversation in line
Me, I’m on a foolish errand
Probably only one stamp, and just across town
Things I cannot tell you in person
I hardly had the courage to even write them down

One thing about winter: you never wait long for the night
If there are things that you desire
That need darkness to make them feel right
I found myself in your neighborhood
At that pivotal part of the evening
Five hours before closing time
You were finished, and I was leaving

The darkest day of the year
How I wish that we could sleep away your sorrow
I’m not trying to find a silver lining
But tonight the moonlight is shining

"Pacific Grove"

The power went out in Pacific Grove
Or who knows, maybe the whole peninsula
But you had enough charge on your phone
That we could listen to nearly every R.E.M. song
We skipped “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”
It seemed a little too on the nose
We hadn’t watched the inauguration
We’d seen enough of that show

So we played cards by candlelight
I believe the power came back on before bedtime
Mornings, you’d do work and I’d buy groceries
I’d make the coffee, you’d make the oatmeal
The wind was wild, and the waves were nasty
Even so, afternoons, we’d walk on the coast
We read about two tourists who were swept out to sea
Taking pictures of each other at the ocean

After you flew home, I mailed you a package
You’d left a purple shirt behind
I’m not sure if I was being thoughtful
Or returning something special
You wanted to be mine

With the package, I wrote you a note
About where I went after dropping you at the airport
On the map, I found the name of a little grove
Where they’d never cut the redwoods
Among them, all alone
The trees beatific
The Catholics would call it sacramental
And that’s still how I think of it

This morning, I put on my raincoat
In a pocket, there’s a pamphlet, I know
It cost me a quarter at the redwood grove
An informative memento
How many times those trees have seen the end of a world
Two thousand years of being alive
How many axes and how many fires
Those giants have survived

More Like It


Dan McCarthy: piano, guitar, singing
James Maakestad: upright bass, singing
Pearl Lovejoy Boyd: singing on "Christmas 1974" and "Steadfast Friendship"
Aaron Markley: tambourine

Recorded and mixed by Ben Brodin at ARC Studios in Omaha Nebr., April 2015.
Mastered by Doug Van Sloun at Focus Mastering in Omaha Nebr.

"Head Waters"

Worry's like water, it'll always find
The lowest little ditches in your mind.
And of course the creeks get swollen after a heavy rain,
But this flash flooding can't be explained.

The head waters are a mystery.
I've heard about a lake up in the hills
Fed by the cold spring of misery:
May it run dry; I've had my fill.

Does it ever happen to you, when you're in the van —
You have a major crisis of faith in man.
Doing the subtle soft­shoe between the gas and the brake,
Thinking, How can I trust these people not to make mistakes?

The head waters are a mystery.
Must be somewhere up near the great divide.
I'd make a sacrifice to the god of gravity
If from now on, they'd flow down the other side.

When has it ever helped to worry?
This plane's been delayed.
This pain's worse today.
Will I get there on time?
How am I going to die?
Are my feelings all fake?
Is this song a mistake?

The head waters are a mystery.
I imagine a melting field of ice.
Glaciers older than history,
This century are taking the big slide.

The head waters are a mystery.
No one knows where these waters rise.
At least no one who's been there and known what he's seen
Has managed to make it back alive.

"Fifty Times a Day"

It's not like I think about calling you up fifty times a day.
It's not like I baked your favorite cookies and threw them all away.
It's not like I bought a bunch of flowers and placed them on a stranger's grave.
It's more like a hundred times a day.
It was more like a frosted layer cake.
It was more like the world's most beautiful bouquet.
It's not like I worry if I can be completely honest with you.
It's not like I wish it was just us when I see you across the room.
It's not like I've been staying up all night writing songs for you.
It's more like, Is there such a thing as truth?
It's more like the only number's two.
It's more like I should quit messing with music.

"Laguna Beach"

Came to California, gonna get some sand in my shoes.
It might take me a couple of days before I can get that loose.
To track in all that sand and not reach for a broom,
I'd have to rent a whole new mind, not just a hotel room.

Middle of February, a bunch of mixed­up holidays.
Washington declares his love, but Lincoln don't know what to say.
Even the Christian thrift store has a window display
That reminds me of my hometown on college football day.

My brother used to live here, I know he fit right in.
Not just his suntan, no he's also handsome and thin.
Some of the local ladies thought maybe he was a movie star.
Me, I'm more likely to be mistaken for the gardener.

Many a man is ruled by things he thinks he owns:
Insurance for the pool at your manmade lakeside home.
I say wish for what you wish, just be careful what you get.
I saw a dude with a Rolls Royce picking up a poodle's mess.

"Ogallala Aquifer"

Did you know there exists a sixth Great Lake
Beneath the Great Plains of the United States?
A government geologist decided to call it
The Ogallala Aquifer.

Zebulon Pike thought there wasn't a chance
That people could live, much less cattle and plants.
But the farmers and ranchers, they found an answer:
The Ogallala Aquifer.

Formed in the age of the sabertooth cat —
What thirsty traveler could've conceived of that?
Anywhere in the Sandhills, a well and a windmill:
The Ogallala Aquifer.

Do you ever imagine that deep in your heart,
There might be a fathomless reservoir?
Something that's ancient and hidden and pure?
For our country, that's no metaphor.

"Mean Things on My Mind"

I've got mean things on my mind.
My thoughts are angry bees; my head's a mangled hive.

Where in the hell did you learn to drive?
Does the Helen Keller Driving School offer classes online?

Keep on talking on the phone.
I'd hate for you to have nothing to do while you're driving and eating an ice cream cone.

I've got mean things on my mind.
All my wishes will come true, as long as everybody dies.

Who's that older lady being so rude?
No kidding, that's your mother? She's looking pretty good.

You sound just like that famous country singer.
You sound just like Hank Williams, Jr.

"No, I'm Sure You're Right"

If you start to suspect that you've worn out your welcome,
It's a pretty good bet your intuition is right.
If you start to suspect you're gonna bounce that check,
You should probably listen to the accountant inside.
Do the voices in your head get ambitious
And suggest that the rules don't apply to you?
Do you often suspect that you really know best,
Better than everybody else?
Yeah, I bet you do.

Have you come to expect a buffet of pleasures
To be arrayed before you for maximum fun?
Have you come to expect a double dip of that flavor
Only after you've tasted each and every one?
If you believe that the world is your oyster,
What's that make you: a pearl or a parasite?
If you've come to expect everyone to cater to you,
I'd be a fool to argue.
No, I'm sure you're right.
Only a fool would argue.
No, I'm sure you're right.

"Keep the Devil Away"

When I was setting out from the town where my family settled,
My grandma gave me her St. Benedict medal.
She said, ‘You don't have to pray, and you don't have to kiss me.
You don't have to write, but I sure hope you miss me.
And anyway, may this medal keep the devil away.'

Keep the devil away. Keep the devil away.
Listen to what I say: keep the devil away.
You don't have to get on your knees and pray, just know when to call it a day
To keep the devil away.

I'd been doing pretty good, hadn't been drunk in a couple of years,
When I made the mistake of having a couple of public beers.
An old buddy of mine heard I was drinking again,
He drove over so fast it'd make your head spin.
He showed up with that stuff he'd been known to commandeer.

Keep the devil away.

I met this girl the other night, we got as far as her room.
That's where I learned she was mostly into cartoons.
She insisted she had something to show me.
I resisted, but, well, you know me.
On her hip she had a Tasmanian Devil tattoo.

Keep the devil away.

"Air Force One"

Remember the day of the Terror?
I left the office and came over.
You always had the fastest browser
And your roommate's enormous TV.
We watched as they replayed the horror,
People jumping out of towers.
I swore I heard a plane flying over.
You said, ‘All right, let's go out and see.'

It was the only plane in the sky.
There was only one person permitted to fly.

I told you I'd call you later.
You were having something frozen for supper.
What a rotten end to the summer,
And a pretty shitty end to our youth.
I was living with my sister and our friend.
That afternoon, they were both working.
They hadn't seen the plane flying,
And it got lost in the haystack of news.

It was the only plane in the sky.
There was only one person permitted to fly.

Remember when we took calculus,
With that teacher like a blunderbuss?
Just trying to keep our feet under us
As he blasted us with math?
Do you remember what he meant by inflection point?
Who am I kidding, of course you don't.
Just when this whole world twisted out of joint,
There surely was a better path.

It was the only plane in the sky.
There was only one person permitted to fly.

"Christmas 1974"

Two days before Christmas, 1974:
You've got all your pretty Christmas cards spread out on the floor.
From your sisters-­in-­law and your mother's friends who'd come to the wedding back in June.

It was no surprise to any of them that you'd be expecting so soon.
Using your sewing scissors, even though you know it'll make them dull.
Cutting out snowflakes and reindeer, tie a ribbon through a little hole.
You've got a Joni Mitchell record playing on the stereo,
And a second pan of popcorn popping on the stove.

With your little homemade dress,
And your little homemade ornaments,
You were making it up as you went along.
Maybe it was common sense,
To make your own cheerfulness
In that little rented house on a corn and soybean farm.

Take your garden shovel and a five­gallon bucket down the lane.
There's been plenty of snow this winter, and then yesterday it rained.
Half a bucket of gravel oughta be enough to hold the tree up straight.
Then you'll string the popcorn and cut an angel from a paper plate.

"Steadfast Friendship"

All those nights I was making myself cocktails in your kitchen,
I'll reveal my recipe: nine parts booze, and two parts ice.
Meanwhile, you were busy doing dishes and changing diapers.
You had that gentle method where you'd microwave the wipes.
It seemed like we hadn't had a grown­up conversation in years.
When I needed help, you said ‘Why don't you stay here.'

Steadfast friendship.
Some gifts you're just lucky to accept:
Steadfast friendship, good health, and a peaceful death.

One night, a while later, when the kids were out of diapers,
You were raking up debris that you'd cleaned out of the gutters.
I was lying on the lawn, it was one of the longest days of summer.
The kids were running through the sprinkler.
I've read that it all comes down to brain chemistry,
But that evening I believed in happiness as a reality.

Steadfast friendship.
Some gifts you're just lucky to accept:
Steadfast friendship, good health, and a peaceful death.

I don't really miss you when I'm gone,
Like I don't really miss my mom.
It's easy enough to keep in touch,
Plus I know you'll be there when I get home.

Steadfast friendship.
Given three wishes, here's what I'd request:
Steadfast friendship, good health, and a peaceful death.

Plays the Piano


Dan McCarthy: piano and singing
James Maakestad: upright bass and singing
Recorded at home by Ben Brodin on April 14, 2012.
Mixed by Ben at ARC Studios in Omaha, Nebr.
All analog.

"2:47, July 18, 2011"

I woke up Sunday morning, didn't smell too good.
Smelled no better Monday, don't know why I would.
I didn't take a shower, but I did a little work.
I work for myself, and my boss is a jerk.
I work for myself, and my boss is a jerk.

I don't mind Monday, it's the same as every day
Except the newspaper's skinny, and I get a little more mail.
But it isn't the bad news that's been losing weight,
And since your letters quit, it's all bills to be paid.
Since you quit writing to me, it's only bills to be paid.

The dishes in the sink ain't gonna do themselves.
If wishes were washers, I'd have dishwashing wealth.
The only thing that happens on its own is getting old.
I do my own cooking, and the food's always cold.
I do my own cooking, and the food's always cold.

I told you two o'clock, I wish I would've said one.
I'm at the piano, waiting for you to come.
The last time you were on time, time stepped on its own toe.
Now I hear your knuckles knocking at my door.
Now I hear your knuckles knocking at my door.

"Ponderosa Village"

It was a good thing we had the coal plant
When the river flooded Fort Calhoun.
Who knew you could drown a nuclear reactor?
But the traffic from the swing shift
And the power company's tree­trimming crews
Makes it hard to pull out of Ponderosa Village.

It reminded you of Bonanza.
It was what we could afford.
It'd be handy to pick your mom up from the airport.
But like most TV cowboys,
I never learned to ride a horse.
Makes it hard to get out of Ponderosa Village.

To call it a trailer is such a misnomer:
You can't hitch it up, and it ain't going nowhere.

There's a shared tornado shelter
Where we gather when the sirens ring.
That last time it felt like New Year's, with the women screaming.
But a couple of power lines
And a couple of namesake pines
Were all it brought down on Ponderosa Village.


Edit: Django G-S

Chevy Anderson
Django G-S

Photo: Django G-S


Come on, it's New Year's Day:
Why don't we listen to Hank
And find a new game to play with dominoes?
Old Hank died 59 years ago.
“Why Should We Try Anymore?”
Because the best thing we do —
I guess I don't know about you —
But the best thing I do is to sing a song.
It's the right thing to do, even when you do it wrong.

What did you do last night,
Did you set the woods on fire?
Neither did I, I was in bed by twelve.
I rang it in like the Liberty Bell:
Just wishing I'd never cracked.
Maybe this'll be the year you finally grow a beard.
Maybe I'll grow tall and handsome.
I'm afraid I'd have to pray for a miracle, and then some.

For now, it's New Year's Day
And we're listening to Hank.
What the hell, we might as well play cribbage.
Is this for glory, or is it just a scrimmage?
I'll be damned, how'd you get that score?
You got 15 - ­2 - ­4 - ­6 - ­8 - ­10 - ­12 - ­14 - ­16
And another dozen for four of a kind.
Cousin, nobs gives you 29:
Hank's age when he died.

"Evil/Free Will"

I don't want you to think
That you gotta keep me happy.
I don't want you to think
That you gotta make me smile.
I don't want you to think
That you gotta keep me happy.
You've got better things to do with your time.

Like for one thing, I think
You oughta keep being pretty.
For one thing, I think
You oughta keep looking fine.
For one thing, I think
You oughta keep being pretty.
It really takes a load off my mind.

My happiness is a side effect:
You are serious medicine.
My happiness is a side effect:
You are a powerful drug.
My happiness is a side effect:
Like evil is to free will.
My happiness is a side effect of you.

"The Ballad of Dorothy Lynch"

Dorothy seems sweet, but there's nothing natural about her.
She's pretty in pink, but her color comes from a can.
She's from Central Nebraska, but she flirts with a Southern accent.
Dorothy, how you ever gonna keep an honest man?

She put every scratch and ding in her daddy's old Honda,
But her new cowboy boots got scuffed up in a sweatshop in Uganda.
The gold in her hair, I am told, comes out of a bottle.
So, I'm afraid, does her deep bronze, spray-on tan.

It doesn't have to be gospel, it's just how you feel.
You don't have to be genuine for your love to be real.

The man she called John had never gone as far as Vermont,
But he was real sweet; he and Dorothy had a lot in common.
He'd been to Normal and Norman, but he kept on coming back
To the town where his buddies at the bar called him Hungry Jack.

His old car from high school, his ball glove, and other things he'd lost.
But the one thing he missed the most was Dorothy's bubble gum lip gloss.
There's no need for a young man to sit and watch cable alone.
When Dorothy came over, she joked, “There's no taste like home.”

It doesn't have to be gospel, it's just how you feel.
You don't have to be genuine for your love to be real.
It's not Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; it's just how you feel.
You don't have to be genuine for your love to be real.

Fresh Blood


Dan McCarthy: piano, guitar, banjo, singing
James Maakestad: upright bass, guitar, singing
Ben Brodin: drums, pump organ
Bram Rosenfeld: mandolin

Recorded March 5 & 6, 2011 by Ben Brodin
at ARC Studios in Omaha Nebr.

except Bram's mandolin, recorded by Stephen Bartolomei
at The Itch in New York City

and “Theoretical Love Song,” recorded February 26, 2011
by A.J. Mogis at ARC.

Gus & Call is James Maakestad, Aaron Markley, Daniel Ocanto,
Matt Owens and Mike Schlesinger.

Mixed by Ben Brodin at ARC.
Mastered by Doug Van Sloun at Focus Mastering in Omaha Nebr.

"The Barroom and I (Sure Miss You)

You were smoking a cigarette
When you figured out you were pregnant.
So I drove you to my house
So that you could lie down.
That smoky old barroom,
It sure does miss you,
But not half as bad as I do
Since you moved out of town.

The barroom and I sure miss you.
The beer's not as cold.
They won't let you smoke.
Every joke is old.
All the whiskey tastes sour.
It's a cheese-paring pour.
There are no smiling faces
When I walk through the door.

That baby is walking now,
And there's another on the way,
Their daddy standing there handsome
On your wedding day.
You moved to California –
That's where you've always belonged.
The kids can swim in the ocean,
And you can sit in the sun.

The bartender thinks I'm a creep.
Most of the time I agree.
Though I've tried to convince him,
He will not believe
That your leaving had nothing
To do with me.

"Hard Heart"

An attic apartment with a wooden staircase fire escape –
Now that he's moving, he's glad that everything heavy stays.
He's leaving the woman with the expensive suitcase,
The one she asked for last Valentine's Day.
You could tell she was the type who'd never settle for a card.
You'd have to have a hard heart not to feel sorry for her now.

He's taking the vacuum. He's taking the broom.
She never expected to have to clean those rooms.
He's got a couple of milk crates of old LPs.
Judging from his records, he's too much like me.
She's letting him get away with 6- and 12-string guitar.
You'd have to have a hard heart not to feel sorry for her now.

She's staying with her sister for a couple of days.
They agreed that it'd be easier if she just stayed away.
I never trifled with them, and they never bothered me –
That's the best way of being neighborly.
Though she did call the police in the middle of my best party.
Still, you'd have to have a hard heart not to feel sorry for her now.

They shared a car, and they got a little dog.
You can't ask the figures where the arithmetic went wrong.
Maybe it was her job that made her so unhappy lately.
Maybe the puppy was practice for a baby.
Never did I once see him take it out in the yard.
You'd have to have a hard heart not to feel sorry for her now.

"You Can Count on Me"

You can't always count on sober and serene,
But you can count on me.

I'd give up reading and writing, quit doing math even,
Before I'd stop being your friend.

You can't always count on clever and cheery,
But you can count on me.

If blood is thicker than water, then what we got is oil
Within this mortal coil.

You can't always count on consistency,
But you can count on me.

"Oh Nancy"

Audio recorded/mixed by Django G-S
Video directed/edited by Django G-S

Django G-S
Matt Hovanec
Andy Norman
Ben Semisch

Photo: Ben Semisch


Oh Nancy, I'm sorry, we're doing things you despise:
Pinball and poolhalls and getting drowsy while we drive.
I've got a few thick books with me, but they haven't come in handy yet
Unless like that old Russian, you're rolling your own cigarettes.

I don't know what I'm doing, but I know where I am:
On the road in a 15-passenger van.

Oh Nancy, I'm sorry, we're doing things you abhor:
Whiskey when you want it, and beer when you're bored.
I could make the excuse that it makes my brain numb,
But the beer ain't doing nothin' the road ain't already done.

Oh Nancy, I'm sorry, we're doing everything you hate:
Staying up till hours that ain't even late.
Smoky motel rooms with two men to a bed –
Don't tell me about the folly of being comforted.

We kill time and make time, and spend time and save time,
Waste time and pass time and keep time in stop time.

Oh Nancy, I'm sorry, I'm doing things you don't like:
Spending all my money any given Monday night.
I'm not proud to admit it, but I've been hanging around bars
Where the girls aren't too pretty, but they leave their clothes in the car.

I know what I'm doing, I'm becoming an old man
On the road in a 15-passenger van.

"Picking at Scabs"

When I heard your voice on the phone,
I was more than a little surprised.
It'd been a long night of collapsing-building dreams,
And I'd barely opened my eyes.

The questions you were asking me
Reminded me of when we were together:
How much are you drinking, and how's your family?
At least you didn't ask about the weather.

My mom, she's been doing well.
Dad's been getting dizzy.
I'm not drinking as much, but not not at all.
Such tail-chasing has been keeping me busy.

That and picking at scabs to see fresh blood.
It's all right, we can laugh about this stuff.

We laughed about the first time we were in bed
And I was such a mess.
You knew I wasn't that drunk,
So you asked me if I was religious.

It was a decent question, I guess,
Though it made me even more nervous.
Like you'd invited the Almighty himself
To testify to our congress.

In the morning you only had that dress
That you'd worn for the games out on the lawn.
I'd say we were both ready to run
Once you put your blue tennis shoes on.

Picking at scabs to see fresh blood.
It's all right, you can laugh, but I'll call your bluff.

That time we drove out to the country
‘Cause my folks were draining the pond,
And we thought we'd catch a couple catfish
Before they faced their Armageddon.

You held the pole and I rowed the boat,
And when I brought us back to the bank,
My dad showed us how his grandma cleaned ‘em
By nailing their heads to a plank.

We were gonna be living high:
Fresh catfish and cottage fries.
But we both knew from the first bite,
Those fish's Kool-Aid was laced with cyanide.

So putrid it was hard to describe.
There wasn't enough beer in the house
To make it seem like a good time,
Or to wash the bitter taste out of our mouths.

So we went around the corner to the grocery store
To pick up some more beer and fried chicken.
While I was over grabbing a six-pack,
You were at the counter being propositioned.

In overalls and a motorized cart,
He didn't look like he could do too much harm,
But whatever he said about sexing chickens
Made you never want to go back to the farm.

Picking at scabs to see fresh blood.
It's all right, you can laugh. That's about enough.

When I heard your voice on the phone,
I was more than a little surprised.
It'd been a long night of disastrous dreams,
And I'd barely opened my eyes.

I probably wouldn't've picked up the phone,
But I was waiting on a call from a plumber.
You still had our old area code.
I didn't recognize your number.

"Theoretical Love Song (with Gus & Call)"

The end of your life, it don't mean nothing to our love.
Neither does the end of mine.
If the world should end in 2012,
We still have plenty of time.

Time is just a construct.
It's relative to the speed of light.
Even Einstein's theories only apply
To the universe where we find ourselves tonight.

We will weather the nuclear winter.
We will welcome the second coming of Christ.
When the sun's fuel is spent and it becomes a red giant,
The love between us will survive.

So what if this is all an illusion,
And the universe is only one
Of an infinite number of universes?
I'm gonna love you in every single one (+1).