Albert Cummings – Live at the ’62 Center
Albert Cummings’ latest album, Live at the ’62 Center, finds this ultra talented songwriter, vocalist, and blues guitar great playing a full set for a hometown crowd in his native Williamstown, Massachusetts. The twelve song recording is full of the fire and heart defining the best blues music while also distinguished by a superior songwriting sensibility that knows how to interject its voice amidst familiar musical elements. Live at the ’62 Center features all of the aural strengths that makes for a memorable live album – an understated but helpful balance between the performance and audience, a warm production effort never sacrificing authenticity to achieve its ends, and a physical mix capturing the musicians accurately without any needless adornments or embellishments. Live at the ’62 Center is a more than worthy representation of one man’s talents and the state of a genre extending much further than the relatively limited purview of modern mainstream blues giants like Joe Bonamassa, among others.
“500 Miles” gets things off to a rollicking start with a moderately paced blues rock number. The effortless swing in Cummings’ music shines through here and elsewhere on Live at the ’62 Center, but the true attraction these tunes exert on the imagination is thanks to Cummings’ fretwork. “Finally In Love” and “I’ve Got Feelings Too” are powerful guitar driven workouts, but they are also infused with some of the smirking humor heard in the best blues tracks. Cummings never overplays his hand with that humor and it brings more to the song’s pathos that he can laugh to keep from crying. “No Doubt” is one of the album’s better expressions of the funky side of Cummings’ guitar playing. It’s an entertaining tale of infidelity that Cummings delivers with tremendous drama. Each of the performances on Live at the ’62 Center features a relatively extended running time that allows Cummings a chance to stretch out instrumentally but his efforts in that vein are never overwrought.
“Lonely Bed” is another number mining some familiar imagery and subject matter in blues music, but he dresses it up in an identifiable way that eludes outright imitation. Taking a turn with a B.B. King style blues over a broken heart proves to be a good fit for Cummings and his emotive playing really gets the tune over. “It Hurts Me Too” faithfully revisits the classic Elmore James original, but it soon deviates from the original for a much more mid-tempo rendition of that tune than what longtime fans of the form are used to. “Up Your Sleeve” is a clever, hot blooded blues ramble with some appropriately strong playing from Cummings and an exemplary rhythm section performance. “Movin’ On” is another example of this feel bearing down on the album and the wide swing the drumming and bass playing gives to the cut helps make it an excellent prelude to the album’s climax. Live at the ’62 Center ends with “Glass House/Midnight Rider” and this improbable marriage of Albert Cummings’ original and a cover of the Allman Brothers “Midnight Rider” doesn’t succeed just because it’s cut from the same blues cloth. Instead, it shares a similar spirit, albeit expressed differently lyrically and in terms of note selection, and ends the release with its longest number and an exhausting closer. Cummings’ live album will win over even casual blues fans and crackles with inspiration and energy.