The Wages of Sin

The Wages of Sin


Traditional music for non-traditionalists. A Celtic / country / rockabilly / bluegrass cocktail, chased with a bracing shot of punk rock and garnished with a slice of weird. Alternately rowdy and mournful, and sure to get your feet tapping, your heart palpitating, and your liver crying for mercy


The Wages of Sin have been playing traditional music for non-traditionalists since 2003. They mix Celtic with country with Appalachian with rockabilly with Tex-Mex with bluegrass, and follow the whole mess with a bracing shot of punk rock. Alternately rowdy and mournful, they're sure to get your feet tapping, your heart palpitating, and your liver crying for mercy.

They've released two CDs recorded with Producer/Engineer Johnny Sangster (The Briefs, Gas Huffer), who has called them "…an American version of the Pogues, with more murder." Amen.

The Wages draw consistently large and enthusiastic crowds as headliner at smaller Seattle venues, including a string of sold-out shows at the Sunset Tavern, while their recent St. Patrick's Day show packed the Tractor Tavern to capacity.

The Wages have also had an excellent response supporting national touring acts including Devotchka, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, and the Clumsy Lovers.

Regional touring has included Portland OR, Eugene OR, Olympia WA, and Vancouver BC.

The Wages have a strong web presence including a large mailing list and an active MySpace community They appeal to a wide variety of audiences - from fans of Celtic, country, and bluegrass all the way to rockabilly, ska, and punk.

RIYL: The Pogues/Shane MacGowan, The Waco Bros., Flogging Molly, Steve Earle, Tom Waits, Split Lip Rayfield, Devotchka, Rev. Horton Heat, Slim Cessna's Auto Club


Lay Me Down

Written By: Lyrics: Jesse Stewart / Music: tWoS

See the walls rise up around me
Lay me down boys lay me down
Let the loving sod fall o’er me
Lay me down boys in the ground

I don't pray for gold or silver
Lay me down boys lay me down
Just a drink of cold clear water
Lay me down boys in the ground

Lay me down beneath the heather
Candles at my head and feet
Let the world burn down around me
As you sow so shall you reap

Fell in love with the cobbler's daughter
Lay me down boys lay me down
She led me like a lamb to slaughter
Lay me down boys in the ground

So here's a glass to Gene and Eddie
Lay me down boys lay me down
Before rock and roll got pretty
Lay me down boys in the ground


With a belly full of hate, I will curse the gathering storm
With a bone-deep chill no jug of wine can warm

Bless me father I'm a sinner
Lay me down boys lay me down
Booze for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Lay me down boys in the ground

So here's to all you rotten bastards
Lay me down boys lay me down
Now kiss the ass of your new master
Lay me down boys in the ground


The Drunkard's Prayer

Written By: tWoS

I woke up in the street, and all the birds were singing
Tur-a-lur-a-lur-a-laddie tur-a-lur-a-lur-a-lie
I wished that I could fly, so I could be there with them
Tur-a-lur-a-lur-a-laddie tur-a-lur-a-lur-a-lie

I've roamed around the world, and I've seen many wonders
I've eaten like a king, while children died of hunger

So angels up in heaven won't you hear the drunkard's prayer
That I may sleep the night without a worry or a care
I only booze to numb this hateful world of sorrow
So I pray that I won't need a drink tomorrow

I've drank in many bars, with profligates and misers
And I keep getting older but never any wiser

I've had many friends, and all of them were strangers
And I've slept in the mud like Jesus in the manger

So angels up in heaven...

Well God made water, hops, and barley
And the ruby grapes that grow upon the vine
If there is sin in drinking, joy, and laughter
Then why did he turn water into wine?

I had an awful dream, I was naked in the garden
The air was warm and gold, and all my sins were pardoned

Then I woke up in the street, and all the birds were singing
So I found the nearest bar while the church bells all were ringing

So angels up in heaven

Belly of the Whale

Written By: tWoS

Two hundred years ago we put to sea
In a good ship taught and free
To put an end to tyranny
The children of the lord

Our cargo was tobacco leaves
Salted pork and collared greens
Musket balls and bayonets
Were buried underneath

The officers are madmen, the sails hang in rags
But still we stand saluting before our tattered flag
The ship is slowly sinking beneath the howling gale
But it's safe and warm in the belly of the whale!

The captain is a simpleton
He's sailing for Jerusalem
The soothsayers all tell him
That his course it true

Across the waves to heathen lands
Our bold and upright smallpox plans
May Jesus bless our victory
No matter what the cost

The officers are madmen...

The talismans we held so dear
Are blackened by the tongues of fear
They pour their poison in our ear
Their bellies fat with blood

The Albatross around our necks
Will drag us down into the depths
A thousand stinking corpses
Bobbing in our wake

The officers are madmen...

Black Lung Blues

Written By: tWoS

My grand-daddy was a miner, union through and through
Weighed 250 pounds, stood about six-foot-two
Went toe-to-toe with the Pinkertons, with their dogs and with their guns
He'd stand and fight until the fighting's done

They sent replacement workers to break the union man
Grand-daddy left that evening, axe-handle in his hand
He came back 8 hours later, blood from head to toe
Said "They'll never cross a union line no more"

And the coal runs deep, down in Butcher Hollow
Many a man went down the mine, many a son did follow
And they never had no vices except dice and whores and booze
And at 51 they died of the black lung blues

My daddy was a miner, like his daddy and his daddy before
He told me "Son you're gonna use your brain, you're gonna be something more
There's nothing here but back-break, and coal dust on your tongue
And another wife a widow much too young"

And the coal runs deep...

My daddy caught the black lung the year that I quit school
Coughing blood as black as tar, he said I was a fool
We buried him on Sunday, then drank 'till closing time
On Monday I went down into the mine

Now it's been twenty years of working my fingers to the bone
Providing for my family, my wife my kids my home
Seems like every waking hour's been spent down in this hole
Until my blood runs blacker than the coal

It was twenty years this morning when the man shaft caved in
We've been down here 18 hours and the air is getting thin
So get on your knees and pray boys, 'cause this is god's own truth:
None of us are gonna die of the black lung blues

And the coal runs deep...

The Righteous Stranger

Written By: tWoS

Follow the river, head for the sea
Walk the path to galilee
The silver tongue of a Pharisee
Will tell you what is best for thee

Next depot on the whistle stop
Time to stump for the ballot box
Henhouse doors open up for the fox
Chokes your air with double talk

Oh I don't plan to stay, my friend
just a rung in the ladder of a charlatan

Follow me I'm your redeemer
a prayer, a curse and dark deceiver
I lie here now Like a dog in the manger
So heed the words of the righteous stranger

There's no truth in a house of lies
Built from glass it will give rise
Parachute candidate in disguise
Self anointed vox populi

You need not hear what the choir sings
Or worry who'll be queen or king
Confidence men with gold nose rings
Sign you to the bastard wing

Don't complain about the status quo
The old boys last because you like the show

Follow me I'm your redeemer...
A gerrymandered op-ed machine
Middle class slums must breed 'em mean
I'm independent from all routine
And you're beholden to my scene
It's too late now, train's on the tracks
A carpetbagger never looks back
Scalawags don't cut no slack
For god damn bourbon democrats

It's hard to find wrongs to right
Easier to wreak havoc in the night

Follow me I'm your redeemer...


Written By: tWoS

In the summer's swelter, tossing in my sleep
A dark forbidding figure came to me in a dream
The sun a blaze of fury, it's rays came beating down
On the bleached-out bones of some nameless desert town

Not a dog was barking,not a baby cried
Nothing broke the silence but the buzzing of the flies
Desperate broken figures, scattered all around
Blood flows like a river into the thirsty ground

A dark forbidding figure, his soul and body bound
Dragging his own coffin across the dusty ground

The men they called for whiskey, to wash the pain away
The women filled the chapel, fell to their knees and prayed
The whorehouse beds are empty, the hounds begin to howl
Thunder rips the sky and the rain begins to fall

My brothers how you've suffered, my sisters how you've wept
Locked away your hopes and dreams, your darkest secrets kept

One boot and then the other, Django walks the street
Pulls me over closer and whispers unto me
"Kings and popes and criminals, hearts both pure and black
Each has their own burden to carry on their back"

A dark forbidding figure, his soul and body bound
Dragging his own coffin across the muddy ground


Gringo Mariachi
Full-length CD
My Checkbook Records, 2008

Custom of the Sea
Full-length CD
My Checkbook Records, 2005

Set List

Our typical set is 12-15 songs (40-50 minutes) - mostly originals with a few traditional numbers and the odd cover for fun.

Our St. Pat's set:

Skull Creek Logger
Lay Me Down
The Drunkard's Prayer
The Righteous Stranger
Buccaneers (of Elliott Bay)
Belly of the Whale
Baptized by Fire
Razor in my Pocket
Heave Away
Ten Fathoms Deep
The Tyburn Jig
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
Saturday Saints
Jolly Roger