Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There are so many days where you wake up and feel like cracking a cold beer right away. You wake up and you just feel like you need a beer. It doesn't make you an alcoholic, it just makes you reasonably pessimistic, or reasonably worn. You're not setting off to bury the day or to forget that it's happening before it's even occurred, but you'd like some help getting to noon. You'd like to ride a good buzz through the afternoon hours and see where that gets you. You'd like for there to be something or someone to commiserate with in advance, before you're sure what you're going to have to be bummed about. It might call for a beer or it might call for some Maker's Mark. You'll know when you get there and you might not have to wait too long to find out. Seems like you can find who your real friends are by sticking with the ones who don't cluck their tongues at you for drinking before noon, by taking stock in the ones who don't hesitate to crack one open right beside you when they see you digging in.
Patrick Sweany's song, "Million To Me," could be the anthem for these days of early nipping, of trying to get some perspective on what's happening around you. Here, the Ohio-born songwriter is casually accounting for the things he holds most dear in life and everything else can be damned, for the most part. Bukowski's greatest wish in life would have been to have a small home, rent paid forever and a fridge filled with enough to eat and drink for the same amount of time. It's not far off from where we hear Sweany coming from.
The longtime buddy and former bandmate with Black Key main man Dan Auerbach, Sweany sings about how the phone calls that he gets are usually just to tell him that something bad's happened. Of course, that would make you never want to answer any of your rings. He seems to be a man who's boiled the fat out of the meat, working that marble into the taste, getting rid of the excess and taking it down to a great cut. His bluesy hoarseness gives him that unmistakable lived in quality, a tip-off that he's had himself rearranged a time or two and he's got the chunks ripped out of his hide to prove it.
When he sizes up his days, he rationalizes that he doesn't need much and he believes that everyone should be able to relate. Some things are important and most things are not. He sings on "Same Thing," "I just want a little butter sometimes on my daily bread/Everybody wants the same things." He mentions how a good soul singer always makes him cry and though he'd never give himself credit for it, he's just as effective at it. He's like Joe Cocker raspily giving us the self-deprecating line and affirmation, "Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song/And I'll try not to sing out of key," knowing fully that singing out of key is one of the things that doesn't matter a bit. He sings on "Million To Me," "Every morning I just hear these songs/That's a million to me," and that's his world. That's a morning where you can do a traditional bowl of cereal, some pancakes and eggs or a beer and you're gonna be alright. You're gonna be okay with yourself.
*Essay originally published October, 2011