Albert Cummings is Making His Way to Music Haven
Covid 19 has meant good news and bad news for blues rocker Albert Cummings who plays Schenectady’s Music Haven in Central Park on Sunday night. The bad news is that his ninth album Believe got shelved along with his tour to promote it right at the beginning of the pandemic. The good news is the massive shutdown of the music industry made it easy for him to record his next album under some pretty extraordinary conditions.
“I’m standing in Peter Frampton’s studio in Nashville. I’m looking at the guitar he used on Humble Pie, and I’m looking at all his guitars on the wall, and they’re letting me use all these instruments and stuff. It’s scary and on the phone, there’s Vince Gill. I’m standing in that room, and I said to Vince, ‘Vince, I’m standing in Peter Frampton’s private studio, and I’m looking at his guitars that he used on Humble Pie,’ and Vince says, ‘Watch out what you wish for, buddy.’”
I’ve listened to an unmastered recording of this 13-cut record tentatively called Ten as in Albert’s 10th release, and as good as his nine previous albums are, this one is over the top. Recorded with a cadre of Nashville’s best session musicians, it features 13 original songs, any one of which is a potential crossover hit. Albert’s songs are more nuanced and his voice comes across with a more weathered and dynamic feel in the same vein as circa 1980 Johnny Cash and Charlie Daniels. Like those two artists, Albert’s new stuff crosses genres with potential breakouts in contemporary country and Americana. He is an American everyman here and he’s telling the world.
“They brought me all the first call players down in Nashville, and they all brought their game. You know what I mean. They brought it all in there, and they didn’t do anything I didn’t want ’em to do or didn’t approve. They would say, ‘What do you think of this, Albert?’ I would be like, ‘That’s stellar. Let’s do this or try that.’ I don’t know. It was just so much fun making this record. It’s not even mastered. You’re not supposed to hear it yet. It’s not even poppin’ out yet. It’s not even saying listen to me. And that’s what that record is going to do when they put it out.”
The album is being shopped right now, and we won’t get to hear any of the new songs Sunday, but we will hear his stunning guitar work on songs like his version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Red Rooster” getting heavy airplay on SiriusXM’s Bluesville channel. Albert has been and continues to be an underrated guitarist whose playing is both primal and complex at the same time. In other words, his guitar solos are never mere flagellations.
The Williamstown (Massachusetts) native heads out after his Sunday performance. “Next week I have four gigs. Then, two at home. Then, I’m out for six weeks in the Midwest, and then I’m home for a couple of weeks Then, it looks like they want me to go to Europe. I don’t even know if it’s possible to go to Europe in November. I don’t think we’re ready to travel across the ocean quite yet.”
For years I’ve been asking Albert when is he going to give up his day job building multi-million-dollar homes and do music full-time. He always seems to be speeding toward a fork in the road, and his answer is always the same. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Will this be the time? His son has just left home making him and his wife empty nesters, and his enthusiasm about this new record is palpable. “I remember when I came out of the studio with Double Trouble, and I felt ‘Oh, I’ll play with anybody now. Nothing makes me nervous.’ But I still go into the studio and feel nervous, but I was nervous going down there (to Nashville), but once I met the players and everybody, I just went into a relaxed mode.
“I’ve probably talked to you about that back in the day playing with Double Trouble, and Tommy Shannon told me I have red light fever because every time the red light would go on to record, I would tense up. And on this one, it was just like, ‘Wow, I got to hang out in the studio and play in the studio with some of the best players in Nashville. This is really cool.’ And that’s how I looked at it.”
Albert plays as a trio Sunday at 7 with Wyld Blu opening at Music Haven in Central Park, Schenectady. The show is free and part of Mona Golub’s Second Wind Productions summer schedule. Catch him before he’s gone with the wind. Ten is taking his muse to new heights.
“It’s my In Step. I was watching this show about Stevie Ray Vaughan last night, and they talked about his other albums, and finally, he made an album with music instead of a blues record, and that’s my record, I think. There are a couple of labels that want to steal it, but I’m not going to let them have it. I’m waiting to hear from a big wig out in California, and if he takes it, I’ll be happy.”