Albert Cummings’s New Album, Single and Tour
“Need Somebody,” the first single from Ten, Albert Cummings’ new album dropping April 8, is available for streaming now. He’s currently on the West Coast playing a different city practically every day into April. Guitar Player Magazine premiered the single on February 16th. That release – his tenth – expands on Albert’s vision. Yes, he’s still a blues-rocker, but the 13 cuts find him addressing new horizons.
The press release announcing Ten accurately says, “There are few albums today that are grounded in the blues but can still instantly jump off into a whole new sense of expression. On his new studio album TEN, Albert Cummings ventures into rock, country, soul, and Americana, while his songs range from wall-ratting tunes to soft ballads, with Cummings’ rugged, world-wise vocals hitting all the right moods. Musically diverse and emotionally cohesive, TEN’s 13 original tracks stand as a compelling statement about who he is now and where he may be headed.”
Like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Walter Trout, Albert Cummings has a God-given talent. They say practice makes perfect, and Walter Trout proved that. He had to learn to play guitar all over again after his liver transplant saved his life hours before he was about to die. Coming out of that operation he couldn’t walk, let alone play guitar, but he willed himself back to the firebrand he once at been tackling those strings. His touch with death simply added a close-to-the-bone authenticity to his music. He got in touch with his resurrected self.
Buddy Guy was plucking a single string that had held the thatch together on his mother’s broom at the age of three. He nailed that string to the wall of the shotgun shack he lived in and made music on it. His muse he could use was already there. Sure, he honed it through practice and rehearsals with a band. He swallowed half a bottle of Remy Martin and faced his first audience in his teens. He still requires that bottle in the rider to his contract at age 85. But that fundamental and sometimes elusive magic was already there.
B.B. King lost his mother as a child and for all intents and purposes was abandoned by his father. He fed nuts to the squirrels on the banks of the Mississippi to have another living creature to talk to, and when he finally formed a fan base through constant playing, he would hold court in his bus for as long as it took to have an audience with every ticket holder that wanted to meet him. He drove a tractor as a young man, but he was driven by a God-given talent that he was born with.
Albert Cummings is a fourth-generation home builder. His multi-million-dollar homes have graced the covers of several building industry magazines. But he was born with talent so strong that he can get in front of an audience and flip a switch in his brain that puts him on automatic pilot. He takes us away. Every second of his playing is equal to most guitarists’ showcase solo of the night. He undresses his fans’ angst. Everyday reality is cast aside for a ride on the wild side.
The trick of the tale with artists as good as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Waler Trout, and Albert Cummings is connecting with the business end of music. It’s a dance to the death with people who often don’t share the artists’ vision or passion. The musician has an obsession that has little to do with a desire to make money. They’re dancing to a different drummer than those who stand between art and commerce. The suits are fundamentally in the game to maximize profits. Like the artist, they want to reach a fan base, but how they fuse the muse for that end can be a waltz while the artist is dancing the hippy hippy shake.
Like the three other legacy artists mentioned here, Albert’s struggle for mass acceptance has had many left turns: Blind Pig Records going out of business with several of his recordings becoming unavailable, the pandemic shutting down the functions of Provogue, his last label, the struggle of juggling his building business with the need to tour, managing family life with two fulltime “jobs.” (His wife manages him.)
For more than 20 years, Albert and I have had an ongoing discussion about that dance. I told him when The Northeast Blues Society sent him to the International Blues Challenge that he eventually would come to a fork in the road. Does he go left and become heir to B. B. and Buddy’s thrones, or does he dance with two left feet trying to hold the fort with the family business and the music business?
At this moment, anyway, both feet are moving in the same direction.