Albert Cummings had his first start in Massachusetts with his band Swamp Yankee who were heavily involved in the North-East Blues Scene and over the last 20 years he has built a reputation as a fiery Blues Rocker.
This time around he headed down to Muscle Shoals to record with Jim Gaines (Stevie Ray Vaughan & Santana producer) at the world famous FAME studios. I would have to say that the difference that Gaines and FAME have had is remarkable – his sound is more soulful, funkier and there is a sense of ease in his playing that I haven’t heard before. Cummings reminisces about his time in recording at FAME Studios: “On the third day of recording, I started listening in on a tour the owners were giving and they were talking about Aretha Franklin recording ‘Never Loved a Man.’ As they described this, Clayton Ivy [FAME Studio keyboardist] played the infamous lick on the same Wurlitzer piano that was used in Aretha’s session. So many greats have been in the studio where we cut this album. I was playing my guitar, looking at a picture on the wall of Duane Allman standing in the same spot I was. It was at that moment that I realized where I was and what an incredible experience I was having.”
The album is a combination of standards, covers and his own material and the original numbers fit the Blues canon every bit as well as the covers.
He opens with the classic ‘Hold On’ with huge chords, horns and keys filling the sound before he moves into a funky groove. His voice has a smart and sassy edge to it and the whole number rocks like it ought to.
‘Do What Mama Says’ is one of his own but it has the same instant familiarity as does ‘Hold On’ and that really is the case with all his originals. Of the other covers I adore his version of Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’. He keeps tpo the same soft and pleading tone as Morrison’s original and the song keeps all its soul with Cummings vocal.
There are plenty of highlights throughout the album; Willie Dixon’s ‘Red Rooster’ all hard and angular, and features a stunning solo from Cummings while his version of Freddie King’s ‘Me And My Guitar’ has a great shuffling groove to it alongside a strong vocal from Cummings – the guitar is superb.
None of this is unfamiliar or massively ground breaking; it is a superb Blues exposition with a very talented singer/guitarist at the front. Gaines production is top notch and the whole album is a cracker.