LIVE: Albert Cummings @ The Egg, 12/11/2021
Imagine if, at the end of the film, Thelma and Louise careen over the cliff in their T-Bird. But they don’t crash and burn. Instead, they soar over the landscape, the wind at their back as they head off for ever new adventures.
Stevie Ray Vaughan always played to the edge, and at Alpine Valley, like Thelma and Louise, he crashed and burned. What if he hadn’t. He already had taken us to the brink. That’s what the best rock and roll does.
Good rock and roll makes us believe if – for only an hour or two – that we’re eternal. That we’re indestructible. That we’re like Evel Knievel crossing the Grand Canyon on a tight rope.
Great rock and roll is produced by artists who defy the need for that tight rope. They don’t gingerly take one step further into the abyss over the Grand Canyon. They don’t hang on to a balancing stick. They defy gravity and take us along to enjoy the view.
Great African American blues is like rock and roll on steroids. Traditionally, it is performed by artists who walk a tight rope over a proverbial Grand Canyon with every step they take. Just being black and trying to negotiate things the rest of us take for granted like driving to the Seven-Eleven is taking their lives on their hands. Being able to survive creating music that documents those hurtles creates an edge to their sound. Just another hurtle over the cliff in the T-Bird.
Hayes Coleman of the wonderful gospel group The Heavenly Echoes told me early in the pandemic that now we – society in general – are all on the same page. In other words, we’re all taking our lives in our hands when we go the Seven-Eleven.
Albert Cummings’ music is a theme song for the pandemic. His songs don’t just cross over from blues to rock, but like Bobby Rush always tells me about his own career as a black bluesman, he crisscrosses back and forth with sounds that capture a groove for both whites and blacks. If we’re experiencing the Apocalypse Now, both Bobby Rush and Albert Cummings take us there, and at least for the moment, we’re flying as they supply the wind beneath our wings.
Albert told his fans Saturday night at The Egg in Albany that for him the best blues guitarists’ runs say as much in their licks as their lyrics. The guitar becomes another language, one we can all understand. One that takes us on a voyage of catharsis, my word, not Albert’s.
I’ve gotten something different from every concert I’ve ever seen by Albert. Jerry Garcia is the only other guitarist I’ve experienced that can pull that off. It’s why thousands of fans used to follow the GratefulDead from concert to concert. The cornerstone of the song may be fundamental, but the frame and final design of the structure can take you into another world.
Albert was on home turf for this show. He told us at the beginning of this concert that he’d completed his next album in Nashville with Vince Gill on the tracks. Vince Gill is the most under recognized guitar genius in music. When Johnny Mathis wanted to do an album outside of his wheelhouse, Vince Gill was the first musician he went to.
Albert’s next album tentatively entitled Ten – it’s his 10th release – was recorded at Peter Frampton’s studio in Nashville with crack studio musicians. Albert folded the melody from Frampton’s “Do You Feel The Way We Do” from Frampton Comes Alive into the first song of his set, and he was off for two hours and five minutes.
He played “Feels So Good” twice as a sing along, bookends to a long set that did not include any of the songs from Ten. Nor did he do Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster,” one of the best examples of his guitar prowess on record and getting airplay on Sirius/XM’s Bluesville channel.
Bass player Scot Sutherland and drummer Warren Grant both got long solos. They’ve been with Albert for a few years now and have established a telepathic communication with a musician who invents his entire set as he goes, with never a setlist.