Albert Cummings – Ten | Album Review

Albert Cummings – Ten

Ivy Music IMC0001

13 songs – 51 minutes

Williamstown, Mass.-born guitar slinger Albert Cummings established new ground on his most recent previous release, the well-rounded and bluesy Believe, which was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Ala., infusing country into his usual mix of blues-rock. And he keeps the trajectory going with this one – the tenth album in his catalog. Not only was it recorded in Nashville, but it also features country giant Vince Gill in the lineup.

Downhome music has always played a major role in Albert’s life. After all, he started out playing banjo through his love for bluegrass, he started becoming interested in the six-string in his late teens after picking up a couple of Stevie Ray Vaughan records. But he wasn’t hooked until attending college in 1987 and being overwhelmed when he finally caught Stevie in concert.

It took another decade before Cummings played out in public for the first time and subsequently formed his first power blues trio, Swamp Yankee, which spent just two hours in the studio recording the critically acclaimed The Long Way, their only album. Albert went solo in the late ‘90s after winning the right to compete in the International Blues Challenge, and he recruited Vaughan’s first Double Trouble rhythm section, Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, to produce and play on his debut CD, From the Heart, in 2003.

Cummings has been in the spotlight nationally since serving as B.B. King’s opening act, he’s never shied away from incorporating other forms of music into his blues. And he’s always worked with top-shelf folks in the studio, including Grammy winner Jim Gaines who was at the controls to produce Believe – something that continues here with fellow Grammy winner Chuck Ainlay supervising this one at Peter Frampton’s Phenix Studios in Music City.

Albert handles guitar and vocals aided by several of the top session players in the city, including Michael Rojas (keys), Sam Levine (saxes), Roy Agee (trombone), Steve Patrick (trumpet) and Rob McNelley on second guitar. Bassist Glenn Worf and drummer Greg Morrow hold down the bottom with backing vocals from Vicki Hampton and Perry Coleman throughout. Gill lends his voice to one track.

Albert penned all 13 emotion-rich tracks, several of which delve farther into storytelling than he’s gone in the past, and all of them combine to encapsulate his life up to this point – something he notes on his website. “Need Somebody” powers out of the gate to open, delivering the driving, riff-infused blues-rock that fans love, as Cummings’ vocals cry out for a lady to love. An uptempo shuffle, it flows into “Too Old to Grow Up” as Albert describes himself as someone who “won’t come home ‘til the partyin’ is all done” – words that are imbued with just the slightest Southern accent.

He goes semi-acoustic and the sound mellows for “Hard Way,” which builds in intensity as it honors Albert’s dad who grew up on a farm and served in the military during a war — “a hard man with a heart of gold who walks around town with a story untold.” A sweet tribute, it’s accented by rich choral accompaniment throughout. The blues and country are first cousins, and that’s never been more apparent than in “Last Call,” a fast-paced number aided by Gill that describes – what else! – closing time in a honkytonk.

The feel shifts once again for “Beautiful Bride,” a gentle ballad that Cummings first sang at his wedding. It celebrates his undying love for wife Christina, describing her as “my umbrella when it rains and my rescue when I’m in pain.” Sweeping guitar runs open “Sounds Like the Road,” a rocker that describes a trip to the doctor during which Albert’s prescribed instructions to assemble his band and get back to doing what he does best.

“Meet the Man,” an acoustic ballad with country flair, announces the impending demise of the singer before Cummings adopts a sound akin to the blue-eyed soul of Jerry Reed – think “Amos Moses” — in “Two Hands,” a rocker that pushes the message that hard work will always pay off. Another red-clay pleaser, the ballad “Take Me Away,” describes driving in the country in an attempt to leave troubles behind  in an effort leave troubles behind while the horn-powered “Alive and Breathing” kicks up the funk as Albert celebrates finding solace after all.

Another powerful love song, “She’s the One,” follows before “Got You Covered” delivers a little Nashville soul and the quiet ballad, “Remember,” brings the disc to a close.

Blues fans will find a lot to lot to like with this one. And don’t be surprised if a couple of tunes cross over to the country market, too. They rock!

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