Michael Rudolph Cummings Announces Fall Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 25th, 2015 by JJ Koczan


Incidentally, my favorite memory to-date of going to a local show since I moved to the Boston area was when Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback — who operates these days under the somewhat more formal Michael Rudolph Cummings banner, sometimes with the backing band The Souvenirs — played with Jim Healey at Radio in Somerville (review here). The show itself was really cool, downstairs at the venue which like so many others is defunct at this point, but afterwards a few people stayed and sat around a table and all just kind of chatted and hung out and while that kind of thing is usually terrifying to me, I actually really, really enjoyed it.

While we’re free-associating, I tried very hard to buy Radio when I first moved north from New Jersey. Was back and forth with the woman who owned it and everything. Things were moving forward and next I knew, she sold it out to someone else and skipped town, never to be heard from again. Since then, living here has more or less been a succession of, “Hey this place is for sale” and nothing coming of it. I’ve been dying to get in somewhere but unable to make it happen. Mostly because I don’t have money, I suppose. If I could roll up with a wad of cash, I expect the reception would be different. In the meantime, venues close, those that don’t just suck and put no effort into running shows, and I’ve gotten a job, cut my hair, struggled to find time for things that matter to me, like music, my relationship with my wife, my family, and so on. Normal existence, near as I can tell.

Sorry. I got off track. Cummings, with his band, released the More Barn EP earlier this year and will tour — solo, I believe — in Nov. headed south from his homebase in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Dates, links and the EP stream from Bandcamp follow here:

michael rudolph cummings fall tour

michael Rudolph cummings Fall Tour 2015

hitting the road this fall

traveling with some friends and meeting up with some from across the way…

3 – Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia PA wAmigo The Devil, Kermit Lÿman III, Patrick Shannon (hold down the ocean)
4 – The Hook Up, Virginia Beach VA w/Amigo The Devil
5 – A Tasting Room, Wilmington NC w/Amigo The Devil
6 – Bone Lick BBQ, Atlanta GA w/Amigo The Devil
7 – TBA, Nashville TN w/ Rob Snyder
8 – The Cave, Chapel Hill NC w/Brian McGee (Plow United)
27 – Ortliebs, Philadelphia PA w/Thee Nosebleeds



Michael Rudolph Cummings and the Souvenirs, More Barn EP (2015)

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Ides of Gemini, Michael Rudolph Cummings, Witch Charmer, Kikagaku Moyo, Spindrift

Posted in Radio on August 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

It’s a pretty wide stylistic swath with this week’s adds to The Obelisk Radio, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If you check out the playlists for the last couple days, you’ll see a considerable variety of track picked out — also a lot of Clutch — and that only bolsters the appeal of the stream as far as I’m concerned. Straight-up riffs all the time is cool, I guess, but sometimes a left turn out of nowhere can make your whole day seem richer. Maybe that’s what I’m going for with this week’s picks. Either way, it’s a lot of quality, so your tuning in is appreciated.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Aug. 15, 2014:

Ides of Gemini, Old World/New Wave

ides of gemini old world new wave

The Sera Timms-fronted three-piece return with Old World/New Wave, their second album on Neurot Recordings with a suitable foll0w-up collection of otherworldly melodies and ethereal instrumental explorations, setting a balance between doomly undulation and minimalist ambience. Also handling bass, Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman) is of course in command of her form vocally, and guitarist J. Bennett and drummer/backing vocalist Kelly Johnston play more than a complementary role, the trio functioning even tighter than on their 2012 debut, Constantinople, hitting on psychedelic mastery with “White Hart” and rolling out a classic riffly chug on the later “Fememorde.” Mood and ambience are never far from being the central focus, but Ides of Gemini let loose a bit on “The Chalice and the Blade,” with Bennett‘s guitar taking forward position in the mix with an echoing lead tone that seems to be in direct conversation with Timms‘ vocals. It’s a dialog worth hearing, and one that makes Old World/New Wave a markedly rich, immersive listening experience, the spaces the three-piece create in their songs seeming inevitably destined for headphone-on isolation, and in that context, flourishing. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Long Haul”

A single following the earlier-2014 solo release, Get Low, from Pennsylvania-based Backwoods Payback guitarist/vocalist Michael Rudolph Cummings, the new song “Long Haul” finds Cummings partnered with his Backwoods bandmate Jessica Baker (bass), as well as guitarists Dan Metzker and Pat Shannon and drummer/vocalist Mike Bardzik under the adopted moniker mRc and the Souvenirs. The feel of the track is accordingly full-band, casting off most of the punk influence and heavy tonality that distinguishes Backwoods Payback‘s riff-led take in favor of warmer, classic rock vibing. Cummings‘ voice is suited to the change, and especially following Get Low, “Long Haul” feels like an exploration in progress — new ground being felt out — and I’d argue it’s successful in its push toward creating something distinct from Cummings‘ other solo work and the Backwoods itself. He’s reportedly got an EP coming with The Souvenirs, and as a first taste of what that might sound like, “Long Haul” holds promise of good things to come. Michael Rudolph Cummings on Bandcamp, Backwoods Payback on Twitter.

Kikagaku Moyo, Mammatus Clouds

Improvisational five-piece Kikagaku Moyo are obviously comfortable working in longer forms. The Tokyo outfit’s second offering, Mammatus Clouds, was initially released as limited tape through Sky Lantern Records and has been picked up by Cardinal Fuzz for a deluxe 2LP. No real question why — its three tracks, “Pond” (27:50), “Never Know” (16:50) and “There is No Other Place” (3:19), enact a lush wash of hypnotic, sitar-laced psychedelia. “Pond” is especially satisfying in its exploration, drones and melodies playing out over a consistent rhythmic bed, driving further and further out into ambient breaks and louder payoffs until dropping out to spacious waves of noise, but I won’t discount the appeal of realizing that Kikagaku Moyo are playing off The Beatles‘ “Tomorrow Never Knows” in their own “Never Know” either, taking a recognizable sitar line and burying it deep within their own impulses, truly making an individualized work of it. Likewise, the closer “There is No Other Place” comes as a surprise, an effects-drenched psych rocker quick in its pulse and building to Mammatus Clouds‘ noisy conclusion. The sound here is richer than the average heavy jam, and the effectiveness of the ambience is not to be understated. I haven’t heard the vinyl or the tape, but I have a hard time imagining a format on which this music isn’t absolutely beautiful. Kikagaku Moyo on Thee Facebooks, Cardinal Fuzz webstore, Sky Lantern Records on Bandcamp.

Witch Charmer, The Great Depression

Multi-vocalist UK bruiser doomers Witch Charmer debut on Argonauta Records with The Great Depression, the follow-up first full-length to their 2013 Euphoric Curse EP. Mixed and mastered as that release was by Mos Generator‘s Tony ReedThe Great Depression works well to establish a varied if not necessarily stylistically diverse sound, frontwoman Kate McKeown, guitarists Len Lennox and Adam Clarke and drummer Dave McQuillan all contributing vocals — the band is completed by bassist Richard Maher — over dense and accordingly depressive riffing. I’m not sure which of them does the Kirk Windstein-style growls, but they’re pretty dead on, as “A Watching of Wolves” will attest, and the tradeoffs both keep the record moving and keep a sense of spontaneity to coincide with the rolling riffs and longer arrangements, leading to the extended closer “Stare into the Sun,” which hides a sample-topped acoustic outro. Not sure why they’d feel the need to bury those impulses, but their first outing may be setting the stage for an unfolding creative progression, and cohesive as it is, I’m not going to knock it for solid riffs front to back and a doomed-out feel. Witch Charmer on Thee Facebooks, Argonauta Records.

Spindrift, Exotic Detonation EP

Underrated cowboy psych outfit Spindrift — now featuring guitarist Thomas Bellier of Blaak Heat Shujaa — apparently had some material leftover from last year’s Spindrift: Ghost of the West, and three new songs surface as the Exotic Detonation EP via Tee Pee Records, bringing The Twilight Zone to mind immediately on the opening title-track before launching into the snare-march Morricone-isms in which they so readily trade. That Spindrift would wind up doing soundtrack work — to their own movie, no less — isn’t surprising, since their style is so cinematic, but I guess “Exotic Detonation,” the desert-jammy “Ghosts Go West” and the minimalist finale “High Plains Spindrifter” didn’t fit on the initial release. Issuing them on a complementary EP makes sense, and from the standpoint of the radio stream, it’s three more Spindrift songs that weren’t there before, so fair enough. They continue to reside in a very particular niche that’s very much theirs, and for fans of those who might happen into them live, Exotic Detonation will seem right at home among their other Western thrills. Spindrift on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.

I could tell you how long this took me to put together, but frankly it’s embarrassing. Still, this is but a portion of the albums added to The Obelisk Radio this afternoon. To see the full list (it includes Pallbearer), check out The Obelisk Radio Updates and Playlist page.

Thanks as always for reading and listening.

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback

Posted in Questionnaire on April 17th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

My understanding is that if you’re in a heavy band and you’ve made your way through West Chester, Pennsylvania, on an East Coast tour, you’ve probably either stayed at Mike Cummings‘ house or played with his band, Backwoods Payback. As the frontman of the underappreciated and hard-driving foursome, Cummings presents an indomitable personality on stage and off, but is given to backing that up with a thoughtful approach in his lyrics as well as in writings apart from the band. A book of poetry, Confessions of a Lackluster Performer, was published in 2009, and aside from the self-deprecating title, it showed Cummings able to work in textures beyond those of his songcraft, though it seems to be that side of his creativity that most exerts itself. Backwoods Payback made their debut on Small Stone with 2011’s Momantha (review here) and subsequently issued a live EP in 2012 and a studio EP, In the Ditch (streamed here), earlier in 2014.

In addition, Cummings embarked on his first solo acoustic tour last fall (review here), and the release of his full-length solo debut, Get Low, is expected April 19.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Michael Rudolph Cummings

How did you come to do what you do?

I’ve always written in some form or another, since as early as I can remember. Music just seemed to be the next extension of that. It just happened.

Describe your first musical memory.

I had a little portable record player in a blue canvas-colored suitcase. I’m sure there was one in most households with a kid my age (or maybe not, the more I think about it). The movie E.T. had just come out and my mom gave me the Neil Diamond “Heartlight” single. I played that for hours at a time, over and over.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

It changes all the time. Whenever I finish a recording or write a new song, that’s the high I’m always chasing. I just finished my first solo record. Listening back to the tape in the room and forgetting how we even made this thing that was being played back to me…that’s my best memory at the moment.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Every day something I believe in is tested.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I can’t even begin to try and imagine where it leads. I just follow it wherever it wants to take me.

How do you define success?

Doing the best I can at whatever it is that I am doing and knowing that I gave it all I had.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Everything I have seen makes me who I am today. Nothing… Some things are just harder to handle than others.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I have so much to do still, books to write, songs to sing, pictures to draw. It’s such a strange trip when it happens. I can’t sit and force it. It’s like a wave, and I have to ride it out when it comes.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Waking up tomorrow.

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Ranch Song” from Get Low (2014)

Mike Cummings on Thee Facebooks

Mike Cummings on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback on Thee Facebooks

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Live Review: Jim Healey & Joe McMahon, Mike Cummings and Tastefulnudes in Somerville, 10.24.13

Posted in Reviews on October 25th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

It was my first time seeing a show downstairs at Radio in Somerville, though if one has been to the place at all, chances are the small basement stage has at least been walked past en route to the bathrooms, which are also down there. Decor is some string lights, a New England Patriots throw rug and a Futurama poster on the wall, a small P.A., a table and a couple chairs, and the vibe is low-key, perfect for a mostly-acoustic night like this one, though Nature Films, who were about to get started when I arrived, were plugged in. An indie trio from Upstate New York, they were joined in the evening’s lineup by Tastefulnudes, which is Keith Pierce and Jess Collins of Mellow Bravo, Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback on his first solo tour, and Black Thai frontman Jim Healey performing his own solo material with Joe McMahon on bass, who has worked with Healey for his studio output as well as played with his own jazz trio and numerous others.

Still, a mostly subdued night, and plugged though Nature Films were, earplugs were not required to get a sampling of their semi-jangly and unpretentious tongue-in-cheekery. They probably could’ve easily fallen into hip pretense, but nothing’s going to help steer clear of that trap quite like a song about getting a bad blowjob. Pierce, whose own very-much-on-display sense of humor worked in a similar vein, would make for a fitting follow-up as Tastefulnudes (also written stylized in all caps, as if to underscore their intent to grab attention) found him and Collins teamed with Dana Fisher as a guitar/vocals, piano/vocals and cello three-piece. For his part, the charismatic Mellow Bravo frontman could hardly wait for the set to start, and he strapped on his acoustic guitar and walked around the room more or less singing what he saw before actually plugging into the P.A. and belting out somewhat less riotous takes on Mellow Bravo tunes like “Just Like Water Would” and “Prairie Dog,” starting off with the especially memorable “Señorita” from Mellow Bravo‘s self-titled debut (review here), the melody of which proved all the more resonant with the sparser arrangement.

And maybe that was part of it, but throughout the Tastefulnudes, Mike Cummings and Jim Healey sets, there were a couple times where I had to kind of pull back and say, “Holy shit these people are talented.” Watching Pierce hold an acoustic guitar and burp into the mic, it was hard not to think of Jack Black‘s glory days in Tenacious D, but let that also stand for his vocal range. He and Collins make an exceptional pairing vocally, her piano adding depth all the while and her stage presence an anchor all the more alongside his with just Fisher‘s cello filling out the sound as opposed to the two guitars, bass and drums of Mellow Bravo. It was a loose kind of night, mostly laughs among the friends in the crowd, but on a sheer performance level, they not only showed the chemistry at the root of their louder outfit, but explored a range that a full band simply couldn’t while keeping to an intimate feel suited to the course of the evening. They made it easy to get on board, burps and all.

With few amps and no drums to move once Nature Films had finished, the show moved pretty quickly along. Once Cummings was plugged into the P.A. and had a chair on stage, he was more or less ready to go. People were chatting in the back, and others coming and going, and where Tastefulnudes were quieter than Mellow Bravo, they were still fairly raucous in comparison to Cummings, who was up there alone with his guitar, minimal in his arrangements and playing more generally subdued songs. No cover, to think of it another way, and though he’s new to the style of performing and he said as much from the stage — somewhat strange to think of him as being “sheepish” after seeing Backwoods Payback the several times I have, but he was closer to it than not, and I suppose Backwoods has a certain humility underlying the volume — he did well with the rawer context and made it plain to see that he’s genuine in wanting to try his hand as a troubadour. Hell, the fact that he’s touring by himself speaks volumes in that regard.

I’d checked out Healey‘s 2010 solo outing, Dreams of Odessa, before and 2012’s Live at O’Brien’s Pub, but neither really does justice to the richness of his voice live, though the quality of his songcraft shines through and songs like “Something from Nothing,” “The Sky is Falling” and “No Place to Be,” which closed here as it did at the recoded O’Brien’s gig were only bolstered by the complementary performance of McMahon, who was not only incredibly smooth on bass, adding a bit of funk to the more upbeat “The Sky is Falling,” but harmonized on vocals as well, making the gorgeous melody of “Some of Me” all the more potent. The recent “Tomorrow’s Gone” Healey noted was written in the wake of his father’s passing, and the freshness of the wound was clear in his playing the song, which preceded “Whole Lot of Nothing” and “World War Eight,” both of which shared a kind of reflective downerism, once again made all the more palpable through the chemistry between Healey and McMahon on stage.

Earlier I said that I hadn’t needed earplugs, and that’s true, but the only time I even considered I might was listening to Healey move air with his voice. It’s not that he was too loud through the speakers. I don’t think the situation would’ve been any different had the P.A. been shut off. The guy has lungs for weeks and the more I see him play, the more evident the depth of his talent becomes. There was still about half an hour of show time left when they were done, and though a 29-minute bass solo was teased — and with the tone McMahon was able to get out of his instrument, I probably wouldn’t have complained in sitting through it — but instead the extra time was passed sitting around the table in the basement, shooting the shit on a range of subjects from George Clinton doing drugs on stage to dudes making a living on retainer for Miley Cyrus.

I guess music was the center of it, so fair enough, but it was a cool sit and laugh with Healey, McMahon, Cummings, Pierce, Collins, Black Thai guitarist Scott O’Dowd who’d come out for the show, Fisher and one or two others who checked in en route to or from the bar, and it made a fitting end to a mellow night, preceding a drive home in the increasingly chilly New England autumn air.

You’ll find a couple extra pics after the jump, and a video of Cummings doing “Maybe Time.” Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Michael Rudolph Cummings Firms up Tour Dates and Announces Album Title

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 24th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Continuing to shore up the dates for his first solo tour next month, Michael Rudolph Cummings has also announced that his full-length — from which you can hear a rough version of the song “Maybe Time” below — will be titled Get Low. There is a date or two yet to be filled in for the solo run from the Backwoods Payback guitarist/frontman, but already he’s tapped some good company for the shows, including Erik Larson (formerly of Alabama Thunderpussy), Ben Smith from The Brought Low, Jim Healy of Black Thai and Helena Goldberg of Akris. If you’ve got to travel, it’s better to have friends.

Tour dates, the poster and more info on Get Low follow:

Michael Rudolph Cummings is the vocalist/guitarist for the Small Stone Recordings band Backwoods Payback. After years of playing in hardcore bands, Cummings sat down with a four-track and a love of Neil Young, Black Flag, and Black Sabbath to create the outline of Backwoods Payback. Years later, and after relentless touring around the world, Backwoods Payback are at the top of their fuzzed-out, riff worship game. Cummings’s solo material is equally dark but subdued in volume and temperance, recalling the ditch-trilogy era of Neil Young and the slower moments of Townes Van Zandt.

Self releasing a number of solo acoustic EPs throughout the last decade, this tour marks the first time MRC will be journeying outside of the Philadelphia region and supporting a solo record “GET LOW” on his own.

“GET LOW” features contributions from a who’s who of the east coast underground music scene.

Members of Hoots & Hellmouth, Heavy Temple, All Else Failed, Monty Are I, The Boils, and of course Backwoods Payback add individual nuances to a number of the tracks, making for record that recalls the subtleties of classics ranging from “Harvest” to “Pink Moon” all while staying true to MRCs do it yourself roots.

23 – Hanks Saloon – Broooklyn NY w/ Ben (The Brought Low), Keith R. Montgomery
24 – Radio (downstairs) – Somerville MA w/ Jim Healy (Black Thai), Jess & Keith (Mellow Bravo)
25 – Café Nine – New Haven CT (early show 5pm)
27 – Dogpatch Tavern – Frederick MD w/ Helena Goldberg (Akris)
28 – The Blue Nile – Harrisonburg VA w/ Helena Goldberg (Akris)
29 – Longbranch Saloon – Knoxville TN
30 – The Station – Carrboro NC

1 – TBA – Richmond VA w/ Erik Larson (Alabama Thunderpussy)
2 – Rancho Del Rudo – West Chester PA


Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Maybe Time (Rough Mix)” (2013)

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Mike Cummings of Backwoods Payback Releases First Solo Single

Posted in audiObelisk on August 28th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

“Maybe Time” is the debut single from Backwoods Payback guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings, who with it departs from the heavy and sometimes brash Southern-ish rock of his main outfit in favor of a more subdued, traditional singer-songwriter approach. Leading with an acoustic strum, Cummings gradually incorporates electric guitar, strings and drums, but even so, the feel is a departure from Backwoods. Cummings is hardly the first frontman of a heavy act to explore aesthetics beyond those confines — and he’s shown a range of expression before, as the poetry book Confessions of a Lackluster Performer can attest — but even in its rough mix form, “Maybe Time” bodes well for a breadth of influence to come when Cummings makes his solo debut with the upcoming full-length, Get Low.

When exactly that album will surface has yet to be revealed. Backwoods Payback were last heard from earlier this year with the issue of their Live 2012 EP (info here), which was a digital release following up on their 2011 Small Stone debut, Momantha (review here), and it’s clear the band’s tour-heavy/tour-often approach is carrying over to Cummings‘ solo work, as he reportedly has a stint in the works for the fall. As a first taste of Get Low, however, “Maybe Time” takes Cummings‘ already proven songwriting acumen and adds to it a prevailing focus on arrangement that quickly shows considerable depth. What form “Maybe Time” and the other material might take in a live setting remains to be seen — he’s done solo acoustic shows in the past, but I wouldn’t speculate that that’s what in store without knowing for sure; the song features members of Heavy TempleAll Else Failed and The Boils — but if “Maybe Time” demonstrates anything, it’s that it’s worth finding out.

Cummings, who’s also chosen to go by his full name for the project, has made the rough mix of “Maybe Time” available for streaming via Bandcamp and you can find it on the player below. Please enjoy:

Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Maybe Time” (2013)

Michael Rudolph Cummings on Bandcamp

Backwoods Payback website

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