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
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
5. Picking at Scabs
6. Theoretical Love Song (with Gus & Call)
7. Wants

Fresh Blood album cover

lyrics & credits


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.


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"

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).