Date: Thursday, June 21, 2018
Time: 8:00 pm
Price: $20 at door
Breaking every cliché associated with the blues while producing some of the most powerful music of the 21st century comes as natural to Albert Cummings as swinging a hammer while constructing one of his award-winning custom built homes. The Massachusetts native learned the requisite three chords on the guitar from his father, but then switched to playing banjo at age 12 and became a fan of bluegrass music. Like everything he tackles, he threw himself headlong into the pursuit, going to festivals and winning several picking contests in high school. Before graduating he heard the early recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan, however, and was floored by the virtuosity. While in college in 1987 he saw Vaughan perform and he returned to the guitar with a new outlook and resolve. He had another tradition to live up to first, however, and he studied the building trade in order to follow his family into the home building business.
Not until he was 27, an age when other musicians were either already established or had long ago put their dream aside for the realities of life, did Albert finally decide to go for it. An intense period of wood shedding resulted Albert sharing a bill with Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section. So taken with Albert’s fire and passion were bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton that they volunteered to play on and produce his debut recording. In 2003 the aptly-titled From the Heart (Under the Radar), with the awesome power of a Nor’easter and the soul of a natural born artist. No less a giant of the blues than B.B. King, who Cummings acknowledged with a funky version of ‘Rock Me, Baby,’ dubbed Cummings ‘a great guitarist.’
In an era of cowboy-hatted poseurs, Cumming delivered the goods straight from the heart and shoulder with a wallop generated by his talent rather than his wardrobe. A year later Double Trouble joined Cummings again as he signed with Blind Pig Records to create True to Yourself. This time they brought in legendary producer Jim Gaines to control the sessions. The all-original release further showcased Albert’s rapidly developing songwriting chops and deeply emotional vocals as well as stunning guitar pyrotechnics that put the metallurgical properties of his strings to the test. Tours and shows with blues legends B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy and others brought his music to an audience grateful for the opportunity to be rocked hard by a man possessed to play every song like his life depended on it. Working Man (Blind Pig), Albert’s summer of 2006 blockbuster release, is the culmination to date of a guitar hero’s career just taking off. A punchy, stomping cover of Merle Haggard’s blue collar standard ‘Working Man Blues’ brings it all home for the master builder and musician. The swinging Texas blues of ‘Please,’ the instant barroom boogie classic ‘Party Right Here,’ the snaky slow drag ‘Rumors’ and the rousing rocker ‘Feeling End’ show variety well beyond the typical slow blues and shuffles of so much contemporary music.
The deeply emotive ballad ‘Last Dance’ that closes the disc is so evocative that a Hollywood movie could be written around it. Albert Cummings is a man of his times and the man for the times. As he has done with his innovative homes, he has taken tradition and built his own musical edifice that expresses his thoughts and dreams. It is a vision that alternately excites and soothes while also clearly providing a glimpse of his unlimited future. The best is yet to come.