Cummings Brings His Blues To Town

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

“I’m still kind of a kept close secret, you know what I mean?” Albert Cummings mentioned. “But hey, if The Coach House knows about me the secret is getting out – that’s exciting!”

A blues, rock guitarist, with nine albums under his belt, if you haven’t listened to him, now is the time! His new album, Believe, comes out on Valentine’s Day, and you can see him live at The Coach House Feb. 13, a place he’s only played once before.

“You could just walk in and feel history. I love playing places like that,” Cummings recalled. “Everybody you ever wanted to hear or listen to has pictures on the wall. I gotta bring a picture, get myself up there somehow. Really cool. So happy to play there.”

Albert Cummings album cover art for "Believe"

Albert Cummings album cover art for “Believe”

Cummings headed to the legendary Muscle Shoals studio to record Believe, fully intending to do an all covers album. He began to notice that his cover songs on previous albums seemed to get more radio airplay than his original material.

“I got like nine albums with 11 or 12 songs on every one and maybe one out of that is a cover,” he declared. “That means over 100 songs are out there that are originals. I was like wow; they’re only playing the covers.

“Then I realized the blues DJs they want to have their show popular – this is only my opinion – they play songs people are familiar with. So, I was originally going to do a 100% cover album just so I could get some more play because the airplay gets me to places like The Coach House (laughs).”

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

However, once he got to Muscle Shoals and started playing with the other musicians, he thought better of it and did six originals and five covers.

One of those covers is a rendition of “Little Red Rooster” which features some nice guitar solo work. In fact, all of the guitar solos sound fresh and natural, not forced throughout the album.

“I know that if I try to do a guitar solo after a track is done, if I don’t get it in the first two, three, it just goes downhill from there,” Cummings explained. “I always end up picking from my first three.

“I think if you’re thinking you’re stinking. The more you think about it the worse it becomes. You can’t think about music. It’s gotta come from your heart. It can’t come from your mind.”

But it’s the originals that really stand out. Songs like “Going My Way” with its nice solid groove and guitar work or “Call Me Crazy” which really catches fire and jams. The guitar gets pretty wild and you wish it would go on forever. Maybe it will in a live setting.

“Oh yea, that’s one of those four-hour guitar songs,” Cummings laughed.

Albert Cummings guitar; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings guitar; photo Jennifer Mardus

Cummings never played with a band until he was 27, then a couple years later he was doing an album with Double Trouble which was the only band he’d ever listened to.

“To do an album with those guys is over the top,” he said. “Pinch me, I can’t even believe it happened.”

Coming from a rural area out in the hills of western Massachusetts, about an hour from Albany, once he started a band there was no place to play. He knew he’d have to go to Albany if he wanted to do anything with his music.

“If you’re gonna go fishing you don’t go to an empty stream,” he quipped. “So, I went to Albany and I started to do really well, and people were starting to fill up.”

It was here, in Albany, that he caught Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble at the RPI Field House and a whole new world opened up.

“I didn’t know what blues was as a music until I started listening to Stevie,” he admitted. “And what I think was cool mostly about Stevie was he introduced me to everybody else in a way. Like I didn’t know who BB King was, or Freddie King or Albert King or all those people.”

Sometime later, the Field House contacted Cummings to be the local headliner at a blues day concert they were putting together for the students, the faculty and the public. They asked him who he thought they should get as the National headliner.

“I just jokingly said ‘why don’t you get Double Trouble to come play with me?’ and I was not qualified to say that, but I said it,” Cummings laughed. “And they said, ‘that’s a great idea’.

“So, I had to send this little demo out that I had which was my first CD which was Albert Cummings and Swamp Yankee… the CD was The Long Way.”

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Much to his surprise, two weeks later Double Trouble agreed to do it! As a result, the last time Cummings walked into the RPI Field House was to see Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble play, then literally the next time he walked in there he was fronting them!

“Then we booked another gig that night in Saratoga, NY which is about 45 minutes north. We played a large club and we played this sold out show and it was just incredible.

“I’m taking Chris (Layton) and Tommy (Shannon) home, it was just the three of us, it’s 2:30 in the morning and they’re telling me ‘Albert, what we heard on your little demo and what we heard tonight are two entirely different things. You need to do an album’.

“And I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t know how to do an album’. And they said, ‘We do’. And then they said, ‘We want to produce your next album and we want to play on it.’ And I’m like ‘ok’.

“So, I’m literally driving. It’s late at night, I drive by two exits on the highway I’m so floored. My head is just spinning I’m still intimidated and scared but I had to say, ‘I’m so sorry guys, I just drove like a half an hour out of the way. I’m so sorry. (chuckles)

“We set it all up, exchanged numbers at the end of the night and I was still skeptical, yea, right. How the hell can that happen? And sure enough. Next thing I know I’m on an airplane going to Austin, TX, where I’ve never been before.”

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Cummings was further surprised when Layton called him at the airport to let him know he was going to bring Reese Wynans along to play, too. This turned out to be the first time since Vaughan died that Double Trouble did an entire album with another artist.

“I was so green, but the album came out great, cuz those guys are so good,” Cummings marveled. “They took care of me, they brought me under their wings, and they helped me. They made me think of things differently. They made me understand how to build a guitar solo.

“I remember asking them ‘what would Stevie tell me to do?’ and they said, ‘play from the heart’, and that’s what that album’s called, From The Heart.

To this day, that experience still resonates with Cummings both in the studio and performing live.

Be sure to check out his new album or any of the previous nine and catch him live. This secret needs to be exposed!