This Friday, May 6 at 8PM Albert Cummings will be performing at MASS MoCA for a homecoming of sorts. Albert has been noted for his skills as a guitarist as well as a home builder (you might have also seen him on local billboards for Adams Co-Operative Bank). Earlier this week we had a chat with Mr. Cummings on the phone (found out later in the interview that he was actually on the job!). Mark your calendars for Albert, a musician B.B. King has noted as “a great guitarist”!
MASS MoQ&A: What inspired your interest in the blues?
Albert Cummings: A simple answer for this is Stevie Ray Vaughan. The reason I say that is I was only a senior in high school and never even knew who Eric Clapton was at that time. I was so out of tune with music. My brother-in-law used to give me tapes of Stevie Ray, and he was such an idol there for me. Once I studied Stevie a little bit I learned about all the people he studied like Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King, and all those people.
MASS MoQ&A: There was actually a comment on a Youtube video that said, â€śSRV? Is that you? Damn this guy is good!â€ť How does it feel to be compared to an idol of yours?
Cummings: That guy is out of his head because Stevie is on a plateau. I appreciate the comment but the guy is wrong! (laughs) Nobody ever touched Stevie. Stevie used to put Hendrix on a plateau similar to what I put Stevie on.
MASS MoQ&A: How often do you practice?
Cummings: Not a lot of practice, I am a builder by day so I donâ€™t get a lot of time to practice. Sounds impossible but itâ€™s true. Itâ€™s a tough challenge, but you know, nothing is easy.
MASS MoQ&A: Must be tough juggling a construction career and a music careerâ€¦
Cummings: I love them both. Both give me something the other doesnâ€™t. I try to do what I can with both of them for sure.
MASS MoQ&A: Itâ€™s interesting that you started a music career in your late 20s, a time when most musicians have packed the equipment and entered this thing we call â€śreal lifeâ€ť. Do you have any advice for this group of musicians?
Cummings: Itâ€™s definitely true but the style of music I play you gotta be an older guy to understand the meaning of life, the pains of life, the struggles of life, and the benefits. Blues to me is an expression of feeling. People tell me all the time â€śOh you should have started when you were 19 or 20 years old, what were you doing?â€ť And I would say, “I was getting to know myself.” Thatâ€™s really the truth. You canâ€™t be a good blues player in my opinion unless you know who you are first.
MASS MoQ&A: Can you tell us a little more about your connection with Double Trouble, how did you arrange sessions with them?
Cummings: I actually got my start in Albany, NY. There were no blues clubs in the Berkshires you know. I got a good following, people were coming out to see me. RPI was having a blues day and wanted to have me as a local headliner and they wanted to get somebody as a national headliner to come in. They said, â€śWho should we get Albert?â€ť and I said, “Why donâ€™t you get Double Trouble to come play?” Two weeks later I get an answer, â€śYes, theyâ€™ll come and do the show!â€ť And I just freaked right out. And whatâ€™s weird about it is the last place I saw Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble play was the RPI field house, and the next time I walked in there, I walked in with his band. I was on the stage with them. I managed to book another gig that night while they were in town, in Saratoga, NY. We went to this gig after the field house gig to a sold out crowd. People just going nuts!
We had an amazing night of dynamic with the band. Theyâ€™re telling me, â€śAlbert you gotta do a CD, you gotta get out there and do something!â€ť I was like, â€śI really want to but I donâ€™t know how to do itâ€ť. They said, â€śWe want to do it for you, we want to produce it, and we want to play on it.â€ť Next thing I knew, Iâ€™m in Austin Texas. When I did my demo album I went in the studio and I basically told the drummer, â€śIf you stop your paying for itâ€ť and I was out of there in an hour and a half with 11 songs. That was my only studio experience. As I am going down they told me they are bringing in Reese Wynans, Stevieâ€™s keyboard player, so this is the first time that Double Trouble is going to do an album with an artist since Stevie Ray. So this was a really scary experience for me to be walking in there with no studio experience, walking in with my idol band, I should say my idols band! I spent 19 days in Austin with those guys. I learned more in those 19 days than I could have learned in 19 years. I walked out of there with a whole new confidence, if I could do that I could play with anybody.
MASS MoQ&A: You will be playing out in Colorado and Wisconsin, as well as playing larger festivals this summer. What is the best aspect of playing live?
Cummings: Iâ€™ve been to France, Spain, Norway, played every state except Alaska and Hawaii, so I got to see the country and I got to experience the world a little bit more than I ever would have if I were to stay at home. You get to meet thousands of people. The most fun for me is ending up being friends with guys that were my idols like Double Trouble, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy. I was in Memphis and I went to B.B.â€™s club to see him play one night, just standing in the crowd. B.B. saw me and he asked me up on stage. Thatâ€™s the most rewarding thing for me, maintaining friendships with people that I have such respect for. Itâ€™s a really nice environment to be able to do that.
Remember, the show is this Friday, May 6 at 8 PM, Don’t miss out!