Michael Rudolph Cummings at Core4Brewing in OKC with Scott Ryan
I imagine we’ve all had that moment where we’ve just discovered some new to us artist that until just that moment, we’d never heard before. That’s exactly what occurred to me with Pennsylvania’s Michael Rudolph Cummings. Several weeks back, I was perusing Youtube, in particular, browsing new albums and came across Cummings’ 2022 Ripple Music release, You Know How I Get. The cover intrigued me, as did the fact the album was a part of Ripple’s “acoustic” Blood and Strings release series, which also included a personal favorite of mine, Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich’s Forever Gone release a few years back ( https://americanahighways.org/2020/06/24/review-scott-wino-weinrich-strips-away-the-doom-and-bridges-genres-on-forever-gone ). I added it to my ever increasing, “watch later” folder and didn’t think much of it. A few days later though, lo and behold, a sponsored add for Cummings’ solo tour pops up in my Facebook feed, and I notice there’s actually even an Oklahoma City date listed. It’s got to be a sign right? Thinking as much, I head back over to YouTube, queue up the album, let it play and proceed to just be blown away.
I’m actually surprised I hadn’t come across Cummings’ music before. Five albums as guitarist/frontman of Backwoods Payback, a band he formed back in 2003. He’s played drums for Boozewa, and vocals/synths for All Else Failed, but somehow, he’d remained off my radar until now.
I owe Michael Rudolph Cummings an apology. I wish I’d heard You Know How I Get back in October of 2022 when it released. In fact, I even searched through my email folders, positive I’d somehow missed info on the album. I didn’t find anything, which didn’t really make me feel better about the oversight. Just know, the album would have easily been in my top 3 releases for the year. Quite possibly, it would have even been my top pick. It’s that damn good.
Cummings’ solo performance is about as a laid back affair as you can get. We’re in the southeast side of downtown OKC, in a small brewery called Core 4 Brewing. There’s only a handful of us gathered, creating a friendly atmosphere, with lots of banter, laughter and fun give and take throughout the evening. There’s a couple of friendly dogs mingling among us, I’m not quite sure who they belong to, but they’re perfectly content with a couple ear or butt scratches as they move about the taproom saying hello. It’s a beautiful early spring evening, and the taproom windows are open as Cummings plugs in his acoustic guitar and steps to the microphone and proceeds to deliver one of the best sets of songs I’ve heard this year.
Opening the set with the song, “San Francisco” from an early EP titled, …More Barn, Michael Rudolph Cummings had our attention. Cummings is a prolific songwriter to be sure, involved in lots of projects. Touring the world as the vocalist/guitarist for the band Backwoods Payback, the drummer and vocalist of the band Boozewa as well as the synth player/vocalist of the band All Else Failed, the man has one hell of a repertoire of songs, really good songs scattered across various EPs, live and studio releases. As such, a pair of these, “Defy the World” and “Flipside,” and I’ve no idea what they’re from, or even if they’ve been released somewhere, “Got it Made” was the first song I recognized as it’s from the current release, and it was followed by another pair of You Know How I Get songs, “Cellar Times” and the very powerful, “Closer Than They Appear.” By the time the later started, some bar conversations had amplified a bit, and having found the song a personal favorite, I was curious if what I thought would happen would actually happen. There’s a moment in the song that Cummings’ vocals soar in a soul baring wail that did just what I expected it would. Every conversation immediately ceased, and every head turned. It was a meaningful moment for me, one that emphasized the power of one man and a song, and absolutely endeared Cummings to me as an artist.
Up next, an exceptionally well done cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel,” followed, with “No Wrong,” “Beltdrive” and “Going Home” following. Telling the story of his first job at Toys ‘R Us, Cummings also indicated “This Job” was the first song he wrote and performed, on the interconm at the toy retailer no less, before promptly being fired. Cummings ended the set with what he said was the only fictional song of the night, “I Only Play For the Money,” a fun romp which really stood out as a favorite for me, particularly with its lyrics pertaining to photographers as I snapped shot after shot, smiling all the while.
That smile has continued now, days after the performance. Like many of our contributors and undoubtedly many of our readers, I’ve always been a bit on the obsessive side when it comes to music. When an artist’s music is able to really connect with me, like I feel Cummings’ music has, it’s really special. It’s even better when the artist is a cool, good dude, like Mike is. So now, I’ll be venturing down the rabbit hole starting with Backwoods Payback, and the earlier solo releases, much of which thankfully can be found digitally via the good folks at Bandcamp. As far as physical releases, there’s lots of out of print and limited release items to be heard, so it looks like I’ll be updating my Discogs want list as well. Cummings will be wrapping up this leg of his tour soon, but undoubtedly will be back out there soon. Don’t sleep on a chance to see him perform if he’s in your neck of the woods. I cannot wait to get another chance.
The best place to keep up with Michael Rudolph Cummings seems to be on Bandcamp here: https://michaelrudolphcummings.bandcamp.com/music
His most recent album can also be found on Ripple Music’s Bandcamp page here: https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/you-know-how-i-get-blood-and-strings-the-ripple-acoustic-series-chapter-3
Kicking off and warming up the evening was Eastern Kentucky native, Scott Ryan. Ryan was another new to me songwriter that I can’t believe I hadn’t heard before. As his Bandcamp profile indicates, Ryan is better known by his stage name of Scott Ryan & The Devilish Folk, and is currently based here in Oklahoma City (lucky us!) and has released a trio of albums AppalachianBlood, SouthernDeathRide, and More Devilish Things. Described as an “uncompromising songwriter, blurring the lines between alternative and outlaw country,” Ryan did just that, really, really well. Blending a set mixed of originals and covers, Ryan more than held our attention. He sings a really good “story” song, those types of songs that captures your imagination and takes you for a ride. Standouts for me included, “WhiteAcidDeathKiss,” “Used to Love Samantha” and “CocaineKentuckyLove.” A nice introduction to a talented songwriter that’ll look forward to seeing in the future.
You can find more information on Scott Ryan & The Devilish Folk here: https://scottryanthedevilishfolk.bandcamp.com/music