The best performances of the blues will always be in an intimate venue. Singing the blues, contrary to it’s name, is about having fun and make the best of sticky situations. Lyrically, artists talk about woes, troubles and sorrows, but the instrumentals are mostly uplifting and emotional. And when musicians can belt out these feelings to a smaller audience, it feels like a conversation with good friends. Granted, seeing B.B. King play a 10,000 person venue would be a once in a lifetime experience, but it doesn’t compare to paying 20 bucks to sit 20 feet away from a few talented musicians playing some of the most important and influential musical styles ever created. Stage One at the Fairfield Theater Company in Connecticut is just the place to hold concerts like this and fit the bill perfectly for the Albert Cummings band.
The best way to describe Cummings is a mix between Vaughan and Hendrix. They had the power and modern blues sound of Stevie but with the musical and visual flair of Hendrix. Their recordings are immaculate and unique but seeing them perform live gave their music a bit more magic. They were well rehearsed, energetic, relentless and without these characteristics the show would not have been the same. Causal listeners of the blues may have a notion that blues music is slow or depressing, but it’s not all like that. The patterns were the same, they mostly stuck with a 12 bar blues sound, but managed to make each one interesting and unpredictable.
There weren’t too many theatrics to the show, but just enough to keep things visually interesting. Stage One just isn’t that type of venue. The light work was mild, no spotlights or grand entrances. Most of the pizzazz came from a very animated drummer and from Cummings himself, who did everything Jimi would have done on stage just short of playing the guitar with his teeth. He would dance around the stage during his solos, swing his arms around and even bowed the neck of his guitar against his mic stand.
They warmed up with a few of their own compositions like “The Blues Makes Me Feel So Good” which all had a very aggressive attitude and high energy. Drummer Warren Grant gave the performance the energy it needed to keep people energized and interested. Without Grant, the show would have had a completely different attitude. He was a fun character to watch when he got his turn to flaunt during drum fills and the crowd loved it. His aggression is what gave the Stevie Ray vibe to it with his brash but precise style. Bassist Scott Spray gave the low end of the sound a great character as well. He was able to hold the beat and groove effortlessly while still having his own fun.
The crowd of 60-70 people immediately felt a connection with the band and began shouting out requests and telling Cummings where they came from and how much they love him. The worked their way through the set to a classic B.B. King tune “Three o’clock Blues” to which the crowd reacted very positively too. One woman almost stopped the performance as she screamed out, “getting wetter over here!” The look on Cummings’ face was absolutely priceless.
One 12 bar blues song after another can get a little monotonous so they were sure to throw in some good old American rock. A steady drum chop from Grant gave the songs a powerful feel, Spray laid low and let Cummings have his fun with his wide array of floor pedal that gave his guitar a nice variety of voices to choose from. He stuck to a few covers including “Hoochie Coochie Man” among others which got a rise out of the crowd. Unfortunately, it was hard to differentiate what was a cover and what was an original recording because there was no set list. When asked what Cummings played that night, he replied, “I have no idea what I played. I don’t use a set list.” That’s not what’s important, though. The groups attitude and good spirits made for a fantastic show that left the crowd on their feet cheering for an encore.
Sadly, Cummings won’t spend anymore time in New England and is headed south to finish his tour, but he has a plethora of music to enjoy on multiple platforms including iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and physical CD’s available for purchase on his website.