The Life in the songwriting of Two Cow Garage – Part II


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Christine Lortie

In part I of this essay I talked about themes in early TCG records. I left off right before Three. Read part I here.

Not long ago I caught Micah playing a solo show. He took requests and when I asked him to “No Shame” he introduced the song as being about trying to get a job at Taco Bell while being a touring musician. I had not heard this before and it’s possible he was pulling our chain but for the sake of this write-up I’m going to assume it’s true.

03 No Shame

In plain terms that anyone can understand, the chorus of “No Shame” asks the question we all have to ask ourselves at some point. Is what I’m doing worth it? In the song Micah calls the guitar the instrument of his downfall. Without his introduction we can only assume, but with the extra bit of information from the live introduction it’s clear that one of the consequences of pursing a life in art is that it makes you unemployable at even the most rudimentary level. There are countless examples in the Two Cow discography where Micah and Shane question what they’re doing with their lives, the consequences of their choices and whether or not they should just give up and walk away.

In” No Shame” things have never been worse because the job wasn’t there. Not getting the job recalibrates the value of life where all Micah can see is the unfinished songs and the all the things that haven’t worked. I know that feeling, all too well. When I’m down in that hole there’s nothing to see but the dirt wall. Several years ago I had a short story published called The List She Made. In that story the main character’s life is on a downward spiral and eventually he breaks down and fills out an application to work at Hardee’s. In the story he gets the job but then he is then left with evaluating his life based on the fact that he now works making french fries for minimum wage and what does that say about his life. If you want to read the story you can find it HERE. I don’t bring it up to toot my own horn but to try to show that there are dire effects to the human spirit no matter if you get the job or don’t.

The second song on Three that really typifies the beautiful despair in Two Cow’s songwriting is” Should’ve California.” Talk about regret, the whole damn song is one regret after the other and they circle back so if you didn’t really feel the regret the first time you’ll have another chance.

06 Should’ve California

“Should’ve California” really resonates with me, yet none of the regrets in the song are my own. I went to college, I worked in blue collar professions, I moved west, my Georgian ass has even been all the way to California. Yet I don’t feel like my life has ever followed the easy route. I can’t help but think I should have made different decisions about things, that I could have done things that would have made my life easier. But the decisions I’ve made have always seemed like the best decisions I could make at the time. It doesn’t make any sense to me and probably never will but I also know that I’m not the only one who lives this way.

“Should’ve California” is such a simple song but it seems to have held up well. I feel like Two Cow has played it almost all of the times I’ve seen them live and Micah has played it at the solo shows I’ve seen. There is comfort in collective pain and Two Cow Garage shows can often turn into tattooed revivals. And it is songs like these, painful songs that matter, that help us make sense of our lives, that help us get out of the bed each day. And, these songs of desperation and regret help us see the good things in life in a way that others can’t.

You may be asking yourself, is there more of silver lining than finding others that share the same downsides of life that you do. And there is, there totally is! I firmly believe that experiencing hardships allows someone to relish in the beautiful aspects of life. The beauty may not be as apparent or present itself as often, but through the lens of hardship beauty is magnified and details that might otherwise be missed are recognized and embraced.

04 Jackson, Don’t you Worry

Is there a more touching and beautiful song in the Two Cow Garage cannon than “Jackson, Don’t You Worry?” A song that Micah wrote for Shane’s young son, this masterpiece appears on 2010’s Sweet Saint Me and I firmly believe a song with these details, that is this touching could only be written by someone whose has, and continues to experience the desperation and regret of the songs already mentioned. It’s as if Micah is saying this is a good thing in the world and I >refuse to let it pass without acknowledging it in a significant way. I find it more touching that Micah writes a song for Shane’s son. To me song feels like a preemptive strike, Micah saying to Jackson what Shane might not be able to say or what a son might not want to hear or accept from his father.

At the same time the song probably works as a comfort while on the road. In “Jackson, Don’t You Worry” there is confirmation that doing what you have to do has consequences, and for the first time in the Two Cow cannon the consequences are not just to the adults that are in charge of their own decisions. But the tenderness between two friends is undeniable and without the hardships that populate most of Micah’s and Shane’s songs then the value of, night after night, standing next to someone that understands what you’re facing and what you’ve already faced down, wouldn’t be as powerful.

For them, and for us.

SHANE SWEENEY – THE FINDING TIME

The Finding Time

I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I listened to The Finding Time ,even after having talked to Shane about his solo stuff at a show a while back, but I am sure that whatever expectations I had they were exceeded. I didn’t even know what to think after my first couple of listens. Now don’t get me wrong, I liked this record from my first listen but I had no clue why I liked it as much as I did and still do. It finally dawned on me the other day: this may be the most honest album I’ve heard this year. Sure it’s simple in its presentation of the 11 acoustic tracks and raw vocals but that’s were it shines. You take the guitar, add in Shane’s lyrics with unprocessed vocals and you end up with a river of unapologetic honesty and emotion flowing out of the speakers.

I spoke with Shane about his solo work way back when Two Cow Garage played Houston and he said that his stuff was pretty dark and this album proves him right. There isn’t a lot of redemption going on here. This seems to me to be the work of a man who has realized that the world is fucked and isn’t sure there is a way to fix it but, like it or not, we have keep going. It’s not pure doom and gloom but it seems more realistic than a lot of what’s coming out the days and maybe I am overstating the dark side of things but I don’t think I am. Even the more hopeful “Hallelujah” isn’t all that hopeful:

Well did you call to say we should go on forever
Well did you call to say it’s gone on for too long
But I can feel the time stop when we’re together
And I can feel that moment rushin’ like a song

And I say Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
I’ll try to recognize that moment before it’s gone

In closing, this is quite a gem of an album. Shane really shows his skill set goes beyond rockin’ the bass (which he does a fucking amazing job of) and belting our rock ‘n’ roll (which he also knocks out of the park). He really makes this toned down acoustic venture his own and pours his all in to it. It shows in every listen, every track. The Finding Time isn’t TCG-light, which I admittedly was afraid it would be, but instead is a Shane Sweeney album and while I love his work with TCG I actually think my favorite Sweeney tracks are off of this one and not his body of TCG work. Oh and lest I forget to mention it: this is ESSENTIAL LISTENING.

Shane Sweeney – Legion
Shane Sweeney – The Owl
Shane Sweeney – Hallelujah

Shane Sweeney on Facebook
Shane Sweeney on Last Chance Records
Stream all of The Finding Time right here on 9B

PLAYLIST: NINEBULLETS RADIO 08.04.11

Ninebullets Radio is a radio extension of the blog ninebullets.net that airs every Thursday night in Tampa, Florida on WMNF 88.5 FM at 10pm Eastern. The show is archived for one week after it’s original air date and is available for streaming here. Also, don’t forget to head over to Facebook and like the Ninebullets Radio page.

Below is the playlist for August 04, 2011.

01. Back Row Baptists – Wood & Steel
02. Kaleigh Baker – Train Gone By
03. Nikki Lane – Gone, Gone, Gone
04. Frank Turner – Peggy Sang The Blues
05. Jon Snodgrass – Hey, Dennis
06. 13 Ghosts – Born To Rock -n- Roll
07. Tin Horn Prayer – Fighting Sleep
08. Arliss Nancy – Abacus
09. NQ Arbuckle – Mincing Words
10. James Keyes – Slow Motion Blues
11. Joshua Black Wilkins – Backseat Of Her Car
12. Moreland & Arbuckle – Purgatory
13. Shane Sweeny – When I Am Empty
14. Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil – Seven Points
15. Grayson Capps – Going Back To The Country

Bold = Request

P.S.: If you like this show, do me a favor and post about it on your Facebook/Twitter/Blog. It’ll do a lot to help these bands reach new ears…and in the end, that’s what this is all about. It’ll also help bring the existence of the radio show to more people’s attention & the more people there are listening/paying attention to the show the more likely it is to stay on the air.

STREAM THE NEW SHANE SWEENEY ALBUM, "THE FINDING TIME":

Shane Sweeney, bassist extraordinaire for ninebullets faves Two Cow Garage, is getting ready to release his first solo album, The Finding Time, on August 02 (preorder here). He and his label have been kind enough to let ninebullets.net host a stream of the full album this weekend.

I don’t know that there’s much more that needs to be said so press play and tell me what you think….

PLAYLIST: NINEBULLETS RADIO 07.21.11

Ninebullets Radio is a radio extension of the blog ninebullets.net that airs every Thursday night in Tampa, Florida on WMNF 88.5 FM at 10pm Eastern. The show is archived for one week after it’s original air date and is available for streaming here. Also, don’t forget to head over to Facebook and like the Ninebullets Radio page.

Below is the playlist for July 21, 2011.

01. Marc With A C – Nerdy Girl
02. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – Write Me A Letter
03. Shane Sweeny – Some Hope, Somewhere
04. The Deep Dark Woods – The Place I Left Behind
05. Jimmy Van Zandt – Backwoods Preacher Man
06. Drive-By Truckers – Ronnie and Neil
07. Doop & The Inside Outlaws – Everett Brown
08. Whiskey Gentry – Eula Mae
09. Dirt Daubers – Angel Along
10. O’Death – Ghost Head
11. Some Dark Holler – Cottonmouth
12. American Anodyne – Bastard Sons of The New Depression
13. American Graveyard – Common Ones
14. Merle Haggard – Working In Tennessee
15. Charlie Parr – To A Scrapyard Bus Stop

Bold = Request

P.S.: If you like this show, do me a favor and post about it on your Facebook/Twitter/Blog. It’ll do a lot to help these bands reach new ears…and in the end, that’s what this is all about. It’ll also help bring the existence of the radio show to more people’s attention & the more people there are listening/paying attention to the show the more likely it is to stay on the air.

NINEBULLETS.NET PODCAST: EPISODE 22

It’s time for a new ninebullets podcast. Immediately you might notice that I’ve stopped naming these by the month they were released and going with the more common numbering of the episodes. I am doing this cause I’ve not been so swell at getting these out monthly so I thought going to the numbering system would work better. This will also enable me to do more than one in a month should the opportunity to do that arise.

With that said, let’s talk about the new show. Following in the footsteps of the radio show 2 weeks ago I decided to do a “some of the best of the first ½ of 2011” show that would feature some of the songs that I didn’t get to on Ninebullets Radio. The show features a track from Shane Sweeny’s upcoming solo album, The Finding Time as well as tracks from two heavily anticipated albums from the likes of Gillian Welch and William Elliott Whitmore. The show is rounded out with awesome songs from 9B faves such as Austin Lucas, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Grayson Capps, Frank Turner, Jason Isbell as well as new found fave Damion Suomi.

As always, if you like what you’re hearing on these podcasts, tell your friends about it. Post about it on your Facebook wall. Tweet about it. These bands are all pretty small so every new ear their music find counts, and you can directly assist them in that effort by telling people about this podcast and others like it. Now….on to the tunes:

Track Listing:

01. Jami Lynn – SweetThing
02. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – Poison Milk
03. Autopsy IV Commentary
04. Damion Suomi – Ghost
05. Gillian Welch – That’s The Way It Goes
06. Jason Isbell – Codeine
07. Autopsy IV Commentary
08. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Three Bloodhounds Two Shepherds One Fila Brasileiro
09. William Elliott Whitmore – Bury Your Burdens In The Ground
10. Chet O’Keefe – Game Bird
11. Grayson Capps – Rock N Roll
12. Autopsy IV Commentary
13. Shane Sweeny – When I Am Empty
14. Austin Lucas – Sleep Well
15. Autopsy IV Commentary
16. Frank Turner – I Still Believe


Download this episode (right click and save)

You’re feeling an uncontrollable urge to press those share buttons down there aren’t you. You’re amongst friends. Go ahead and indulge yourself. We won’t judge.

PLAYLIST: NINEBULLETS RADIO 07.07.11

Ninebullets Radio is a radio extension of the blog ninebullets.net that airs every Thursday night in Tampa, Florida on WMNF 88.5 FM at 10pm Eastern. The show is archived for one week after it’s original air date and is available for streaming here. Also, don’t forget to head over to Facebook and like the Ninebullets Radio page.

Below is the playlist for July 07, 2011.

01. The Weary Boys – Cruel Corrina
02. American Aquarium – Nothing to Lose
03. Doop & The Inside Outlaws – Blood River
04. Red Clay River – Rattlesnake Mountain
05. Greenland Is Melting – Blood OnThe Banjo
06. Have Gun Will Travel – Kerosene and Candlelight
07. Shane Sweeny – When I Am Empty
08. Shane Sweeny – Some Hope, Somewhere
09. Robert Earl Reed – Road To Hattisberg
10. Fifth On The Floor – The Fall
11. Hellbound Glory – Rusted Up Old Pickup Trucks
12. Drive-By Trucker’s – Outfit
13. Grayson Capps – John The Dagger
14. Glossary – Gasoline Soaked Heart

Bold = Request

P.S.: If you like this show, do me a favor and post about it on your Facebook/Twitter/Blog. It’ll do a lot to help these bands reach new ears…and in the end, that’s what this is all about. It’ll also help bring the existence of the radio show to more people’s attention & the more people there are listening/paying attention to the show the more likely it is to stay on the air.

SHANE SWEENY: LIVE IN NATALIE'S BACKYARD:


Earlier this week I posted a Micah Schnabel show I found posted on the Postcard From Hell mailing list. While I didn’t know it at the time, there was a companion piece to that show which featured Shane doing a solo set as well. Fortunately, one of our readers had it and sent it my way. So in the interest of completion and good music, I offer you Shane Sweeny: Live in Natalie’s Backyard:

Track Listing:

  1. Shane Sweeney – (soundcheck & intro)
  2. Shane Sweeney – Blanket Gray
  3. Shane Sweeney – Now I Know
  4. Shane Sweeney – Saturday Night
  5. Shane Sweeney – Motel Blues (Loudon Wainwright)
  6. Shane Sweeney – ?New Song?
  7. Shane Sweeney – Bird on a Wire
  8. Shane Sweeney – Glass City
  9. Shane Sweeney – Swallowed by the Sea
  10. Shane Sweeney – Bobby Jean
  11. Shane Sweeney – The Heart and the Crown
  12. Shane Sweeney – Motion Pictures (Neil Young)

DOWNLOAD THE ENTIRE SHOW