Blues rocker Albert Cummings is sporting a new hat on his new album Ten. “I have a whole bunch of new hats. That’s my thing for now. I’m trying to take B.B.’s whole thought into the way you dress for the stage like you’re going to borrow money, and that’s pretty much the way I see it. It’ s my job to entertain people, and I don’t go out looking like a scrub with a pair of blues jeans on and sneakers.
“It may work for the Grateful Dead, but I don’t know. It doesn’t work for my crowd. You don’t show up looking like a bozo. They pay money to see you. They don’t want to see a bozo. At least the bozo better be dressed up.”
His stage presence isn’t the only thing new in Albert’s Life. I’ve been telling Albert for more than 20 years that he would come to a fork in the road, and he’s finally taken it. “I used to put 95% of my time in construction and 5% in the music. I still made some pretty good traction, but the more you put into something the more it’s going to give back.
“It’s like a fire. You put the wood on it, the fire’s still going. It’ll burn. You gotta keep the fire going. I’ve only had a little smoldering coal for a long time. I’m ready to stoke it up and put some dry wood on that baby and go. And I think that’ll make a difference because I think a lot of people over the years would say, ‘Well, he’s not serious about music. He’s just building, you know?’”
I asked Albert what’s the difference between playing before an audience every day and once in a while?
“The fact that’s all I ever have to do now. So, when I get on the road and I’m out for a month or something like that, you look forward to every day. I look forward to every day, and I just can’t wait to go play, but when I’m home and I don’t play, it’s like I can’t wait to get in front of an audience and play.”
His life is suddenly structure around a whole different paradigm. “I’m always rusty, and I’m always anxious. Like when I do the weekend warrior stuff and I go. If I have more than a week off, I start to feel like I’ve never had a gig in my life, and it’s gonna be the first time I ever play, and am I ever going to be able to remember the songs, and I’m not gonna be on top of my game.
“Of course, sometimes it’s totally true, and I can’t do anything, but most of the time I just get into it and forget about it because I don’t think once I get to the stage. If you’re thinking you’re stinkin.’ So, it’s nice – I actually did really good. Not to sound arrogant, but in my own level of my own personal self I notice a huge difference when I start to play every day because that grows every day, and it’s something to build off, and when you can only play once in a while, you never get to like build. You just get to maintain.”
“I can go back and build something if I fall on my face, but I could never live with myself if I fell on my face because I’ve never failed at anything, you know? I think I just haven’t set my sights big enough, and I want to do this, and I’m gonna do it.”
He compares both construction and performing to harvesting gravel out of the earth. “Basically, the gravel just keeps falling out. It’s usually just a hill or a mound or whatever they quarry it from, but if you try to climb that bank, you’re just sliding in stuff that’s falling out. There’s no good foothold. It’s just impossible to climb the bank. It’s just falling around you.
“After I started building my first large house, or larger residence or large project, they came to me again with larger projects. I no longer could take the small little this or that job. I could focus exactly on what I would want to focus on with my house, and I wanted to build the biggest, baddest, most expensive house that’s ever been built, and I did that for 33 years.”
The song “Too Old to Grow Up” on Ten is an oxymoron. Albert is a very mature musician, husband, and dad. His music addresses middle class concerns and reaches further into Americana territory than the blues-rock in his earlier efforts. He’s casting a wider net with a production that involved Vince Gill and some other heavy hitters in Nashville.
“That’s what’s cool about this album is that most of the people I’m working for are connected. All the players on the album are Grammy winners. The producer is a Grammy winner. I’m the only guy that isn’t, you know? So, I’m really excited about what I have to offer the world. I think there’s gonna be some people that will relate to this record. I hope there are. I’m just hoping for the best with it all. I can only put it out there and expose my belly and say here’s my world, and I hope you like it.”
Albert calls it the 27 club when so many rock stars died at once in 1971. “All the great guys – Hendrix and all them. I mean I started when I was 27. I’m starting at the point when people said, ‘This is bullshit. I gotta get a job.’ And I’m just gonna light up the whole place. And to some extent I have.
“So, I got a big challenge ahead of me. So, that’s what we’re going to start working on. I go to Accent Studios in Washington D.C. the night of the Iridium to do a live recording of the songs I haven’t played yet. It’s typical Albert style like to be totally nervous and too scared to be worried about screwing it up.”
He’s performing without a net.
“That’s actually a good name for a song.”
The Albert Cummings tour:
Apr 14 – The Iridium – New York, NY
Apr 15 – Fairfield Theatre Company Box Office – Fairfield, CT
Apr 16 – Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club – Portsmouth, NH
Apr 22 – Race Street Live – Holyoke, MA
Apr 23 – Bearsville Theater – Woodstock, NY
May 25 – Open Chord Music – Knoxville, TN
May 26 – City Winery Nashville – Nashville, TN
May 27 – Sidetracks Music Hall – Huntsville, AL
May 28 – Downtown Brilliant – Brilliant, AL
May 29 – The Spinning Jenny – Greer, SC
May 31 – Eddie’s Attic – Decatur, GA
June 1 – Isis Music Hall – Asheville, NC
Jun 2 – US National Whitewater Center – Charlotte, NC
Jun 3 – Blue Note Grill – Durham, NC
Jun 4 – Flat Iron Crossroads – Gloucester, VA
Jun 16 – Tally Ho Theatre – Leesburg, VA
Jun 17 – Mauch Chunk Opera House – Jim Thorpe, PA
Jul 13 – Shepard Park – Lake George, NY
July 15 – Bandshell Concert Series – Reading, PA
Jul 29 – Head Of Falls and RiverWalk – Waterville, ME
Jul 30 – The Music Room – West Yarmouth, MA
Aug 7 – Donnacona Park – Quebec, QC (Canada)
Aug 27 – Market Square – Kingston, ON (Canada)
Sep 10 – Riverside Park Band Shell – Murphysboro, IL
Sep 14 – Dosey Doe Big Barn – The Woodlands, TX
Nov 11 – Colonial Theatre – Laconia, NH