Albert Cummings Takes Schenectady Music Haven Throngs to Heaven 

I kept seeing Thelma and Louise stepping on the gas and careening into the Grand Canyon at break neck speed. 

Like Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in that film, all of humanity has been raped, not by friends and lovers but by an unseen killer named Covid 19. Sunday night Albert Cummings put the pedal to the metal but stopped just short of taking us over the cliff.  

There was an uncapped feeling of exhilaration and acceleration in the crowd at Music Haven, Schenectady. A collective release after a year and a half of pent-up energy. Here was our home-grown rockin’ blues hero metaphorically playing chicken in his 4X4 with several thousand of us holding onto the bumper like skateboarders stealing a ride.  

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Photo by Stan Johnson

I’ve been telling Albert for decades that he was coming to a fork in the road where he would have to decide if he’s a world-famous builder of high-end homes or a rocking blues star. His answer remains the same: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” 

Sunday night’s show wasn’t just a celebration of our collective return from the brink. It marked Albert and his wife Christina’s first weekend as empty nesters having moved his son into his own digs. A fourth-generation home builder, Albert is getting ready to build a home for himself and Christina. He’s also shopping the tapes of an album he recorded in Peter Frampton’s Nashville home studio playing Frampton’s guitars backed by a gaggle of studio stalwarts handpicked for the sessions by none other than Renaissance guitarist/songwriter/Producer Vince Gill.  

As founder and president of The Northeast Blues Society, I have mentored scores if not hundreds of area blues bands. Only two have gone on to earn a national following, Tas Cru and Albert Cummings, both rightfully earned. Sunday night, Albert said he wasn’t a Schenectady resident (He lives in Williamstown) but speaking directly to his audience, he said we were hometown to him. 

Albert doesn’t follow a setlist. He reaches deep inside and disappears into the music. He has his own style of playing that’s Electric with a capital E. Sunday night, he didn’t just into orbit, he slipped the bonds of gravity, floored it, and all but went over the brink with an hour and a half of original blues-rock anthems. It was a night to remember.  

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Photo by Stan Johnson

Backing him were bass player Scot Sutherland from Des Moines, Iowa, and Warren Grant on drums, regulars for the last several years. “I’m trying to find a keyboard player, but I can’t find a guy who’s a fit,” Albert told me in an advanced interview. It’s got to be tough because Albert disappears into his muse the way John Lee Hooker always did. And the band is expected to click into his psyche. Solida and Grant fit like gloves on the hands of a master. 

Albert recalled recording his first solo album with Double Trouble paraphrasing what he’d earlier related in our interview. “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. I was nervous as hell going down there (to Nashville this year), 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 a red light fever because every time the red light would go on to record, I would tense up.” 

Promoter Mona Golub captured the feeling throughout Music Haven. It was almost like she couldn’t believe she’d pulled it off. Twenty years into presenting extraordinary artists from all over the world at a theater she helped build, she was also celebrating her birthday and was notably chagrined when her father presented her with flowers, kissing his only child on the cheek.  

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Photo by Stan Johnson

Wyld Blu opened with a set of high-energy rockin’ blues delivered by vocalist and lead guitarist Alana Wyld who quipped that their bass player was so new they’d just picked him up on the Thruway. 

Mona Golub has two more shows this season. Next Sunday, August 22nd, an Israeli-Iranian superstar Liraz with special guest Firas Zriek will perform danceable Middle Eastern pop music. 

The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, August 29, celebrates the American songbook with music by Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, and Copeland along with classic folk dances and film music by John Williams. Special guest vocalists are Mia Scirocco and Casey Grey. 

Photo Gallery by Stan Johnson

1 Comment
  1. Dred Scott says

    Hey Don, Nice shout out to you from Albert too! Thanks for bringing us the blues over the years. What an awesome show! Haven’t been over to the Music Haven in a few years. Had a great time. Michele’s food truck had some delicious pulled pork. Really enjoyed the evening and….NO RAIN! (That’s my buddy Mike Persico on bass with Wyld Blu! Nice pic!
    )

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