Ben Cummings may be a singer-songwriter but his debut EP, Devil’s Blood, contains few of the clichés we have come to expect from the genre. There are no multi-layered harmonies or heavy doses of reverb to be found on this stripped-back acoustic release.
The tracks on Devil’s Blood were recorded by Cummings himself. Subtle guitar fingerpicking serves as his loan accompaniment and con- tributes to the sparse, intimate sound of the EP.
Cummings’ lyrical content seems to traverse familiar singer-song- writer territory, dealing with themes of “transgressions, guilt and compromise,” in his own words. Yet he does have an intriguingly truthful turn of phrase and a voice that carries the songs with an honesty and intensity worth hearing. ‘You Say You Know’ is a particularly beautiful song that illustrates Cummings’ strong vocals as well as his restrained guitar playing.
Listing Neil Young as one of his influences, it is clear that Cummings draws inspiration from musical legends. Devil’s Blood may also draw comparisons with the work of Australian singers like Patrick James and Josh Pyke as well as the English Ben Howard. Yet Cummings’ sound is far more minimalist and significantly less produced, using emptiness to create depth.
While many may think that the homemade sound of Devil’s Blood contributes to its charm, the EP is possibly raw to a fault. The tracks, though packed with potential, scream ‘demo’ rather than ‘polished final product.’ From the faint breathing occasionally audible under the singing to the inconsistent vocal levels, this EP could have benefitted from some professional input before its release.
Nonetheless, Devil’s Blood represents the beginnings of an excellent local talent. Ben Cummings has huge potential and in time, may well become a significant name in Australian music.