When looking back on the factors that drew me towards making a concerted effort to promote new copyright models, and to release all of my works under them, I can recall Ben Cummings’ Foxhole being the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had stumbled across Heifervescent, Professor Kliq, and Cletus Got Shot in preceding years, and those entities made a big impression on me; they got my foot in the door. Ben Cummings is the artist that motivated me to drag my introverted self out on the dance floor.
Ben Cummings is comedically self-obsessed, but I don’t mean to categorize his music that way. This single (plus two) is as selfless and timeless as any singer-songwriter can hope to concoct. Sparse arrangements of guitar, bass guitar, and drum paint a sonically REM-ish foundation for his tragic yet triumphant lyrics to bounce around on. His personal stories of the impossible choices and sacred compromises ring familiar. He emotes as vulnerably as an emo kid, but with zero whine-factor. For the record, I like his style more than Michael Stipe’s.
“Foxhole” was pigeonholed in my mind as commentary on the “international community” and our war machine for quite some time, but although it adheres to that model admirably, this track is anything but one-dimensional. I consider this title track a holistic healing tool: “Strap my heart to something other than a rock, other than a clock, other than a foxhole.”
“Ari” and “Again” are equally multifaceted, rounding off this elegant single as “B-sides, Or a B and C side, if you like.” “Ari” lightly presents an anecdote on dressing for the weather while also dabbling in a tale of a lover who lives to run “from life and everything.” “Again” would make a great selection for an Alcoholics Anonymous (or any habit-breaking program) meeting, explicitly reminding us to “never walk that street again” and “never listen to that song again.”
When I asked Mr. Cummings to use three words to describe his music, he chose to name the pillars he aims for: raw, direct, and transparent. Like most independent musicians, Ben is concerned primarily with “[having] as many people exposed to my music as possible,” and that is a large part of the reason he altered the pricing on his products from “cheap, to cheaper, to free over a year or two.”
Some musicians are heartbroken and full of angst over the way the “industry” has evolved in recent decades; piracy has killed sales and technology has revolutionized the promotional aspect. It’s now quite easy for DIY’ers to leave the stifling middlemen and monopolistic monoliths that bog down traditional media in their wake. Free art reigns in 2014, and although I do feel for starving artists, couches have always been more edifying than hotel suites.
Ben Cummings “[thinks] it’s a process of purging things that [he] can’t otherwise understand. Or maybe not, who knows.”