This latest album by Massachusetts singer and guitarist Albert Cummings was recorded in Muscle Shoals, with the legendary Jim Gaines in the producer’s chair. So there’s little surprise that when it kicks off with a horn-laden cover of the Sam and Dave hit ‘Hold On (I’m Coming)’ the resulting sound is big, rich and soulful, with Cummings doing a sterling job vocally. It’s the first of several enjoyable songs of a soul-blues bent on Believe, and if someone were to pitch them as the soundtrack to a remake of The Commitments, I’d reckon that sounds like fun. But at the same time I’d venture to say it’s indicative of how Believe plays it a bit safe at times.
|Albert Cummings - a new rehearsal studio may be an idea|
On the one hand this collection of originals and covers features some cracking stuff. For example there’s the catchy ‘Queen Of Mean’, which may lean on a familiar sounding ‘Take Me To The River’-like riff but benefits from stinging guitar from Cummings. And there’s the bluesy dig of ‘Call Me Crazy’ - all big ringing chords and a scrabbling, feedback-howling solo, with snappy lines like “You think I was born yesterday, but I stayed up late last night”. But on the other hand it includes a pretty redundant cover of Little Walter’s ‘My Babe’, and a bland country-soul reading of Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’ that lacks any Van-like depth. As covers go though, there’s nothing “little” about his take on ‘Red Rooster’, a slow-grinding chunk of R’n’B that nods towards the Howlin’ Wolf original rather than the sparse and reedy Stones’ version, with Cummings’ vocal booming in resonant fashion and his guitar kicking in with an impressive solo that’s full of tension, release and dynamics.
‘It’s All Good’ picks things up with a Delbert McClinton slice of chirpiness after ‘My Babe’, featuring some sprightly guitar, but Cummings really hits his stride in the home stretch. ‘Going My Way’ is strong but subtle, reverb-heavy guitar cutting through over a strolling rhythm, while stuttering, twanging licks are strewn around casually. It’s a good precursor to the wallop of the aforementioned ‘Call Me Crazy’, and then the album-closing rendition of Freddie King’s ‘Me And My Guitar’, which has plenty of punch, a funky groove to engage one’s butt, and a fleet-fingered, wah-wah inflected solo.
That closing trio of tracks would sit happily alongside any of Buddy Guy’s recent output, and demonstrates the impact Albert Cummings is capable of delivering. Believe is an enjoyable album, but it could have been a standout if the drive and swagger of its best moments had been maintained across the piece.
Believe is released by Provogue Records on 14 February.