Rock On! Sound Bites
originally published on New Jersey Stage 08/04/2022
“I do, it just came out in April so even better it’s out there now and it’s called “Ten” and well, it was pretty simple to title; it’s my tenth album so it kind of named itself,” laughed the great blues guitarist Albert Cummings as he discussed his latest release, pursuit of his dream and more after a recent show at the famed Iridium in New York City. “I usually name them after some kind of phrase or words in the album but it just happened to be my tenth so, I thought, well yeah that’s pretty easy. “
Critics have lauded this recent effort, using terms such as “Expansive” with “Rugged world-wise vocals that hit all the right moods” and Cummings himself even admits he “Exposed” himself more than usual on this record.
“I’ve done everything except have my stomach on the front cover; exposed my belly and that is a little scary for me because I’ve got some deep stuff about my dad on there,” he began. “Songs like; I don’t know if you heard it yet, “Meet the Man,” is a song that I wrote the night my dad died and that was his views on death and that is not a song that I would ever put on an album. I’ve saved that, that was written in 2010 and I’ve saved that song until I had the album where I would wanna put it on and I finally felt like I could express myself and be honest with it and let people hear it. So, I’m exposing my belly on the thing but I really think people that come and hear me and listen to me like that about me. I get that a lot, I hear it a lot and I’ve talked to a lot of people about it and they feel what I’m feeling and that’s different; you know? That’s different from just hearing what I’m playing, they’re feeling what I’m feeling and that’s a whole different play on music and it’s very, very, very rare. I don’t see it a lot out there, I see a lot of people and that’s the whole thing, they play what they know but they’re not playing with a feel. They play exactly what they’ve learned and some can get by but once you grab ahold of somebody and you know that they are being touched emotionally, that’s what I strive for to send them home and have them go home with something that they can’t buy in the store. “
Recorded in Nashville at Peter Frampton’s Phenix Studios, Cummings enlisted the help of some industry heavy hitters to bring the project to life; including Country Music legend Vince Gill.
“Chuck Ainlay, he’s royalty in Nashville, he produced the record and he did all of the original Dire Straits, all the George Strait hits, Miranda Lambert, Big & Rich andhe just did Peter Frampton’s album and you know he’s just a great guy and a super talented guy. I wanted to work with Chuck for probably five or six years or something like that; ever since I’ve kind of first became aware of him and I think the timing because of COVID I think it was able to happen for me because he wasn’t as busy as he normally is; he’s really in demand down there. He’s a real popular guy and he’s made so many hits that he’s in demand and he’s a hard guy to get but because of COVID I was able to do so. I just luckily came in at the right time so
it all fell together and I wanted to go to Nashville to do a record my whole life. I’ve been excited to do it; I’ve still got a lot of cities I want to do albums in because i believe every city has a different vibe and that’s how it is but Vince Gill came into my life because he’s good friends with Chuck and Vince offered to do it and that all fell together as well. So, it’s really exciting because he’s one of my idols too. We have a video out for “Need Somebody” which is doing well, like everything is kind of doing really well right now and it’s very exciting we’ve got two other videos that were done and we’re seeing those come up too.”
“There’s 13 tracks,” he continued, “It is diverse because I’ve always been kind of in the blues world but I grew up in the country world and I grew up in the rock world and I grew up in the gospel world and that’s kind of what this album is. I don’t know if you’ve heard the album yet but “Meet the Man” even stretches as far as kind of a gospel thing. On this album I was like, I’m not gonna stick to anything, I’m just going to play my music whatever it is, it is. So, that’s what it is, it’s a hard album to pick a genre for but it’s based in every one of those that I grew up with; it’s just part of me and it just kind of shows different sides of me; which I hope is a good thing. I don’t know if it’s good or bad but it is what this is and it’s what I chose.”
“It is what it is;” many times, record labels and those pesky contracts often dictate what an artist can or cannot do; Cummings says he has never really encountered that and relishes the freedom he’s enjoyed thus far.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with labels who don’t try to pigeon-hole me. I was with Blind Pig for a bunch of records and they certainly like the Blues end of things but they let me get away with a couple of ballads and whatever I felt like doing. They’d let me do that but you know I wouldn’t think Alligator would let you do that or some of the other labels. I mean they (The labels) think they’re gonna tell you where to be and that’s just crushing an artist. I don’t know; what do I know about the record industry? I make the records I don’t market them. So, maybe there’s something there that I don’t know about but yeah, I wouldn’t want somebody telling me, you can’t play that song on my record label.”
Every creative has a watershed moment; the moment or event that sets them down their path of creativity, vocation or fulfillment. Cummings is no different but to hear him tell it; he was just a tad late to the party.
“Well, I don’t know, I just love it so I don’t know, it’s just something that; I never played with a band until I was 27 years old; that’s the weird thing. I’m 54 now and I’ve got some time in on it but I don’t have anywhere near the time people that I know who are friends of mine have in at the same age who have been at it since they were 18 or something; you know? Something just happened; I was building my whole life; I got up and played at my friend’s wedding with the wedding band and they had me up just for a song and I got kicked by something really powerful that I’d never experienced before and I just fell in love with it and I was like man, that’s something that really makes me happy and that’s what I wanna do. So, that’s what it really boiled down to; I didn’t choose it, it kind of chose me.”
Playing the blues for most, is a way of life. Blues music is associated with the segregated South, the Mississippi Delta and the struggles that were real for those who originated the genre. Many say, that if one has not experienced hard times then you cannot be a “Real” blues musician. Cummings disputes that and for him, it’s all about feelings; not necessarily emotions, although they play a huge part in any creative process but about how those feelings and the “Feel” are expressed through one’s lyrics and instrument.
“Most people in their twenties have been in a few bands already and me; I’m really just starting but I wouldn’t take it back. I get the line from people who say; man don’t you wish you’d started in your twenties? Well, I don’t know if I would have made any traction then because my songs are all about life and living and I didn’t have many miles on me then; you know? So, I think it’s all relevant and it’s all happened for a reason. I mean, I actually know a few people that don’t necessarily agree but I don’t think it’s a complete statement because that would be like saying that BB King couldn’t play a song about happiness; if you’re happy you’re playing that way and if you are sad or you’re depressed you’re playing that, if you’re hurting you’re playing that; it’s about being honest with your feelings and anybody that thinks you’ve got to have heartaches to play; I don’t agree with it. I mean it is part of it, I had a lot of tragedy and a lot of serious close deaths to me when I was younger and maybe that comes out to something that made me into something. I’m different than most and maybe that allowed me to figure out who the heck I am or maybe that is a hardship and maybe what is said is correct but again you know one of my most popular songs that we play is, “The Blues Makes Me FeelSo Good” and that’s; because it makes me feel good, it heals me, it’s a healing feeling for me and if I’m happy I’m gonna let people know and if I’m pissed off they’re probably gonna know too. When I’m happy you know, if I’m sad they’re gonna know it, I’m gonna give them what I’m feeling no matter what’s happening and every day, in every show there is a different atmosphere for me. So, I think it’s all about feelings, if you’re living in a place where your only feelings are down; I feel bad for you and that’s a problem but man don’t let me hear you playing a happy song because I’m gonna think it’s bullshit (laughs). You can be whatever you want and I think what people are saying is, if you’re the kid that grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth and has never had anything bad happen to him in his life; that kid is probably not going to understand how to express his own feelings because he doesn’t even know what they are. We all come from different spots and that’s what I’m saying. I think it helps you to get in touch with some feelings but it ain’t gonna make you express yourself through your guitar; that’s a personal thing really. You’ve got to play what you’re feeling on any instrument really and that’s the blues to me. BB King would play “Let The Good Times Roll” and man he was a happy guy and you know he wasn’t driving a tractor and picking cotton back in the day he was enjoying who the hell BB King was. When he was singing that stuff, he was happy, he made you happy and that’s it, it’s kind of catchy, it’s contagious. Whatever you’re giving them should be contagious. Like when Albert Collins would say, “She left me for another man” or he’d say something like, “Man, that woman wasn’t nice;” he was delivering it so real that you’d feel it and that’s what I strive for, it has nothing to do with being happy.”
The term “Life gets in the way” is often used when waxing poetic or looking back; perhaps even with regrets but Cummings is a man who has seemingly always had his priorities straight and looks at the here and now as his time to shine as he moves forward.
“I’ve got a little time off which is probably not good timing with the release of the album but I’ve got a project going that I’ve got to tend to and I have to wait a little bit longer. I’ve got to finish this stuff and get this stuff out of the way so I can go clear it up; that’s another thing, I’ve only been a part time musician the whole time that I’ve been doing this and that’s because I was on the road once for six weeks and I had two sons and I came home and my youngest son was probably seven or eight and I noticed that he’d grown about 1/2 an inch and it hurt me bad and I was like, this can’t happen, I have to be here for my boys and I put the brakes on. I kind of became a weekend warrior and the most I’d do was maybe a week or two away from my home and that’s what I’ve done for the last 15 years. Now, I’ve finally got the chance, my youngest is 21 and he doesn’t care what pop is doing so I’m ready to go. So, yeah, this is the first time I’ve been able to go pursue my dream and this album is a pretty good launching pad to do it with. I’m really excited about it but I’ve still got a few things I have to tend to before I can go out and do it. I’m close but we are going to get super busy, our schedule is starting to load right up; especially come summer and fall and I’m so thrilled because I’m ready. I get so much better when I’m out there on the road because I never have time to practice my guitar when I’m a weekend warrior but on the road, every night it’s like yeah, the band is tight and everybody gets into it; it’s just a blast and I love it.”
To discover more about Albert Cummings, “Ten” or his tour dates, please visit https://albertcummings.com/