Concert Review: Albert Cummings’ guitar work sizzles with red-hot blues in City Park
By Susan L. Pena
On still another perfect, impossibly cool evening, a big crowd gathered in City Park Friday night to hear singer/guitarist Albert Cummings and his trio in an evening of sizzling blues, presented by Berks Arts Council as part of the Bandshell Concert Series.
Cummings has credited the late blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan with inspiring him to get serious about the electric guitar, and he deserves comparison with his musical hero.
Backed by the excellent Warren Grant on drums and the equally accomplished Karl Allweier on bass, Cummings hit the stage running with a powerful sound in “Man on Your Mind.”
A big man who, in jeans and a gimme cap, looks like the home builder he is, Cummings commands the stage and has the perfect voice for singing the blues.
But it’s his guitar work that sets him apart. His solos, especially in the classic “Walkin’ Blues” by Son House, were just as expressive as the song itself: beautiful, complex, inevitable. You could almost hear the guitar say words as he gave the solos the rhythm of impassioned dialogue.
At times he made the guitar sound like a shrieking clarinet, or a growling baritone sax. In “Where Did I Go Wrong,” the guitar distinctly said, “Wow,” then spun like the devil.
His repertoire runs the gamut from old-style blues to rockabilly to boogie and rock ‘n’ roll, sliding from misery to celebration.
In “Party Right Here,” Cummings whipped the guitar into a frenzy; in the song that followed, he captured the mood of driving through the night with the radio on.
“She’s So Tired,” a narrative about a woman sitting in a bar, waiting for a man, showed empathy for the plight of women who are sick of “being second best.” And in “Tell It Like It Is” (George Davis/Lee Diamond), the catchy beat swept away the sad barroom mood.
The band gave a nod to Little Feat with “Dixie Chicken,” opening the second half in another partying mood. Grant and Allweier were given opportunities to show their virtuosity in solos in the pieces that came later in the show.
But the highlight was Cummings’ solo work on the down and dirty “Barrelhouse Blues,” the song written for him by Vaughan’s band, Double Trouble. His dazzling riffs and amazing effects – at times wielding the guitar like a chain saw – subsided into subtle, eloquent phrases. He is an artist through and through.