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Albert Cummings – LIVE at the Iron Horse – review by Bluebird

by GFats on November 22, 2012

Live at The Iron HorseAlbert Cummings
LIVE at the Iron Horse,
Northampton, MA.
November 3, 2012.
Review by Bluebird
It was a full house at the Iron Horse that night. Serious blues fans set out early, and had a lot to say about Mr. Cummings’ upcoming performance. Many of them had traveled a long way from Connecticut, Pittsfield, MA, Vermont, but they were willing to make the trip because they’d seen him play before, and expected a great show. This was the week of the historic Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, the event that leveled parts of the Northeast to shock. Many residents who were spared, still lost electricity. Some of them were here tonight, just getting on their feet after a week of no power. Bring on the blues, the heat in this room can not be canned.
Blues talk filled the room as fans ordered dinner, drinks, and the tables were so close together, cross conversations started, and we all made new friends. Artists’ names were recommended far and wide, legends lived among these walls. Bonnie Raitt’s, “Street Lights,” “Give It Up,” Lightening Red and Thunder Blues, Mississippi Heat, all topics of conversation with fans. Listen to DJ Bill Wax on Bluesville, said one man, Betsy Smith on piano said a woman. I met several people who saw Muddy Waters live. Others who watched Stevie Ray Vaughan tour with Robert Plant and were not insulted when Plant was booed off the stage because fans wanted to hear more Stevie Ray. I was at the Meadowlands show of this, I don’t think Plant was insulted, either. I even met a man who has a personal letter from Vaughan’s mother written to him as a great fan after Mr. Vaughan died. What a story! It was a great scene for blues, indeed. This is why people love this music, it’s not just a ‘sound,’ it’s an entire community.

Albert Cummings came out with a great smile, “Good Evening, Everybody!” and the crowd was way too polite, so he said, “You know, that’s not gonna work!” Then we heard the cheers that would start off the night.
“Drink, Party and Dance” got the crowd rockin. People really wanted to dance! A kickin solo grabbed our attention, but the atmosphere created here was way beyond cool already.

Cummings was fired up, and to the deligLive at The Iron Horseht of the crowd, so was his band. Karl Allweier on bass, and Warren Grant on drums, were new to some listeners here tonight. Cummings was gracious and introduced them as many times as he could, and offered choice solo spots for both of them. They used their stage time well.

What I noticed right away and even more as the night went on, was how this band was a team in every sense of the word. They interacted and engaged with the crowd, but all the while watched each other, note for note, to make sure the timing on these great songs was right on. And they were. All three musicians were simply outstanding, they could bring it, all night, without question. They played off each other, keeping each other’s rhythm and pace. I talked with the band after the show.  After filling in once or twice last year, Warren has been with the band permanently since August, 2012, and Karl has played with Albert for 3 years now.

These band members were always smiling, and the crowd must have been smiling back, because Cummings commented, “We’ve got some blues fans here tonight!” Claps from the crowd erupted, everyone having rowdy rockin fun. “The Sky Is Crying” by Elmore James (1959) was played, and it ran into a slow solo from Cummings, that crept, swept and screamed. Grant underlined this whole production with some whisper quiet drums that had him crouch down to hear the slightest sound from the cymbals. Cummings snuck out a great guitar solo, and all the while Allweier kept tight rhythms on bass. This song was almost a ballad, it was so intense.

A few quick announcements from Albert Cummings, including that his new album, No Regrets is No. 1 on iTunes in Canada, France and the U.S., released just a few short months ago on August 28th, 2012.
Cummings, Allweier and Grant immersed this crowd in the new album. “500 Miles” kept great time. “Cry Me A River” was played by request. Cummings stopped to announce Allweier for a bass solo that would have done Willie Dixon proud. Yet the style of Allweier had a blues to rock to almost soul sound. He could play anything.
During “Glass House,” a fan turned to me and said, “This one makes (Albert Cummings) sound like Joe Bonamassa.” The fans were talking, listening, taking in all the music they could get. Mr. Cummings kept bringing it on home, more blues to discuss, playing one classic sound after another, putting his own signature sound forward, then back to classics again.

Cummings surprised us, completely floored us – by starting out a riff to “Midnight Rider.” So taken was the audience that he stopped and invited everyone to sing, “C’mon people, you know the Allman Brothers!” Fans loved the rockin’ extended guitar solo and Grant took it to another level with the drumming.

“We’re gonna get a little redneck on ya!” said Cummings.Live @ The Iron Horse

“Checkered Flag” keep the fun coming and the night humming. One thing that’s great about Albert Cummings’ style and songwriting is that he is quite versatile. He can go from a down home red Solo cup type of theme, to a magnificent multi-faceted blues piece within the same set. “Foolin Me” had a Clapton vibe, almost like the riffs of “Forever Man” and the change-ups were really catchy, while keeping the blues tradition. His songs on the new album have enough rhythm and phrasing to be memorable, but he never strays too far from the blues roots.

He joked with his band, “gonna put a little shuffle in there fellas!” Who knows what this meant, but shuffle we did, because Cummings kept the night going with a wide range of tunes. He played a song that sounded like scat in the vocals, smooth and quick, then flattened the place with a riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker.”

A short intermission was no break for Albert Cummings or the band. They hung out with the crowd, chatting and mingling with everyone. I heard two fans talking about how much Cummings sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughan. But another fan said, “You can’t clone SRV, you have to have your own sound – and Cummings HAS his own sound.”
I heard some quality rock tonight that almost sounded like Traffic. Steve Winwood has his own sound, and Eric Clapton has joined Winwood (in Traffic, and Winwood’s Nine Lives, “Dirty City” among others) changing identity pieces, like good friends walking through a breezy open door. These great musicians stand on their own so distinctively, that even when they play together, they keep their unique style, as artists.

“She’s So Tired” was a slow easy ballad, with low running bass lines and had the crowd a-swayin’.
The vocals in this song were warm, expressive and easy to listen to, but hard to forget.

“We’re gonna play some blues up here.” said Cummings.
Cummings and his band impacted the crowd with a “Travelin Riverside Blues” (Robert Johnson) “Lemon Song” type of mumble that wrapped up with some wicked distortion. The drum solo that followed was just as intense and stunned the crowd. Cummings said in an understated way, “What do you think of Warren?”

A fan recognized the next song, which was “Standing on Shaky Ground” by Phoebe Snow. Some of these blues fans were like walking music encyclopedias. This wrapped up with what I could call out as medley of Sly and The Family Stone’s “Thank You” and finally, Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign.” The whole night was a great catch of rhythms by Allweier and Cummings, highlighted and underlined by some smokin drums by Grant. They completely made King’s song their own.
“Eye To Eye” brought some vocals mixed with a Paul Rogers’ sound from Cummings that was a sophisticated blend of singer-songwriter tones. We loved watching Grant follow the guitar and drums with his eyes and temper his beats accordingly. They all kept great time and worked hard to do what was right for the groove.

I think I heard Cummings say, “Muddy Waters could have picked this song, he didn’t have any tumble with it, but we’ve got a funky beat going,” but I could have been talking to blues ghosts by this time of the night! “Mannish Boy.” The set included a great solo jam with the band, running up and down the chords and pedals with some fun distortion. Cummings used the guitar and mic stand almost like a Theremin.

The Albert Cummings band is living proof that great rock has its roots in blues. They came back with some songs that showed blues is all about the timing. People were listening, closing their eyes and imagining the notes. Then the trio marched toward us, with a wall of sound and slowed it down again. “Take it off” a fan yelled. The song had a jazz sound at the end. Cummings said, “What do you think of this band?” “Warren kicks a*s” a fan yelled. “Tell it like it is!” The band really showed its range of talent and stamina. “Your Day Will Come.” A highlight of the night was “4 and 20 Years Ago” by Steven Stills, and Cummings said they love to play songs ‘they never do.’

After a quick good night, cheers from the crowd came fast, as did the encore. “I suppose we’re not done yet.” The encore set included standing applause and “Hoochie Coochie Man” was yelled per request from the crowd, but Cummings and the band went into the “Last Dance” that would have brought some cowboy slow dancing had there not been tables on the hardwood floor in front of the stage. They made space for the song to develop and when Albert sang, “I hope this song lasts forever…” a fan yelled out, “me too!” He tagged on a great humming soulful improv vocal at the end. Then, by demand, they broke into a teeming version of “Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters and Albert held a great note at the end. “Blues Makes Me Feel So Good” had a traditional call and response from the crowd, and the Iron Horse was buckin’. I noticed that Albert’s guitar string broke at the end of this song, and he laughed saying, “See? I timed it just right!”

That’s it, folks, good blues, a great band, it was all about the timing. Check out Albert Cummings, Karl Allweier and Warren Grant live, each great musicians in their own right and playing together they will rock any blues house.
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