Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Ben Cartright does this thing with his singing that's unlike anything I've ever heard before. He sweeps the legs out from beneath his voice regularly, sabotaging his songs in really fascinating ways that make everything unpredictable. All other instruments will fall by the wayside and there Cartright will be, bouncing his scruffy, run-over voice off of a bent and bending, sometimes Jandek-y unflattering guitar plucking. The notes come out of his hands as if involuntary, not knowing that they're suddenly going to be exposed to the world. It's as if we're catching these notes stepping out of a shower completely naked with a belief that the house is empty and there we are - all eyes. These are solitary thoughts and urges and actions being delivered in a public way, though they are blushing and unrefined. Cartright deals in the rawest of raw emotions, almost unable to control how they are going to leave his body and his mouth. It's as if he's making it all up as he goes sometimes, just letting the melodies - sometimes melodies that only a mother could love, but creative and authentic always and all the same - flounder until they're no longer floundering, but flourishing. They grow on you so much, these roughly hewn moments of bare knuckles, hairy legs and chests and open wounds. They make you realize how electric imperfection can be when it hits right, when it packs the kind of punch that leaves you choking and smiling. Not sure that there's ever an hour in a day when Cartright's not awake, not stewing and not thinking, not broke and not swimming in something liquored. Though we know this isn't necessarily true, it's not far from in and the songs support these claims as he and his ever-revolving and hyper-kinetic, volatile band are prolific and never out of ideas. Most of the things that Cartright sings about seem to carry with them a rustic beauty that's accompanied by a general mood of someone or some place falling from grace. They feel like time has been unkind and bullying and that the small cracks that have started appearing in the guard are about to get bigger and spread until it all just breaks loose and there's a messy puddle of yolk on the ground - unable to be put back together. That's when the wolves and big cats come by and just start lapping us up as if we were spilled milk. It's what Cartright - Ben and the band - might be most afraid of out of everything there is to be afraid of.