Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Dan McCarthy lives in Omaha, easily the most noteworthy and coolest city in the great, flat state of Nebraska. It's a place that's overcrowded in its center and takes getting out past the casinos and out past all of the tall buildings that Warren Buffett has something to do with to be somewhere that allows one to have an unobstructed look up at the crystallized stars and a night backdrop that's like a billion black eyes looking back at you. It's with this thought that we'd like to publicly dispute that McCarthy actually spends any or much time in Omaha proper. The man behind the songwriting project of McCarthy Trenching, an outfit that puts its albums out on Conor Oberst's Team Love Records, seems as if he'd be most comfortable out amongst the vast and flowing fields of corn, wheat, alfalfa and soybeans and modest little country houses surrounded by ditches overgrown with horseweeds, ditch weed, wild roses, milkweeds and cattails, all thrushing against the rest to make a sound of faint applause and rubbing corduroy. McCarthy is a thinker and a writer - one who carries the old soul of a gravedigger or the same soul of a Dylan -- who might be very happy indeed, but he's one of those people gleefully willing to explore the reaches of lonesomeness and the effects that it has on folks. The tragic, but ordinary tales of lives interrupted and fucked with, or lives stalled in a field of thick, Midwestern mud, feel as if they are the stories that come about 10 years after you and everyone else had their yearbooks signed with wistful, but hopeful and loving platitudes. These are the stories that come from the majority of people that we tend to meet out here in the slow-moving towns, where times have always been relatively tough and yet here we have this beautiful night sky to still call upon and we have all of this open mileage to scream and shout and let all of the frustrations litter the unresponsive and non-judgmental field of grain. On the song "Cassette Tape Massacre," from McCarthy's latest album, "Calamity Drenching," he sings about obsolescence coming easy and makes an all-encompassing observation that "these things unravel so easily," perhaps speaking of this cassette tape of note, but getting at a much bigger thought. McCarthy brings us to the kinds of wishing wells that sit in the middle of overgrown backyards or parks and have been used by many generations. These wells have heard the wishes and accepted the silvered and coppered offerings without hesitation, but knowing that they've been dry for decades and they have no power left to grant any of them. These are the wells that so many of his characters - the aesthete in "To An Aesthete Dying Young: "You should practice your piano or frail your banjo/It's alright to spend a little time at your local/Your worries won't kill you though it sounds like you hope so/Yours truly, as always, your friend" or the countless sad cases - believe in still. It's as if he still believes in these people though, giving them strength, hope and fortitude, even if he doesn't give them much of a chance to get out of these situations with more than their heads, hearts and the shirts on their backs. Love is not simple. Living's not simple, but the difficulty in both makes the long and treacherous, ruinous road an adventure all the same.