Blues Artist Albert Cummings Releases the Album Strong, a Culmination of His Musical Journey to Date

Donna Block
9 min readApr 12, 2024

Williamstown, Massachusetts based. Fourth generation of builders in your family. Second generation of musicians/builders (your father was in a big band until around the time you were born when he focused on building). AA degree in construction science from the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. Self-taught as a musician. “After college I joined the National Guard and basic training was where I learned to sing. They tried me out marching new recruits to see if I could lead the troops. I started singing the call-and-response while we marched, and all the guys in the platoon got motivated. Right after that, they pinned the platoon leader on me and that’s what I became for the remainder of the time. One of the coolest things was when we graduated from basic training, I marched out 120 guys and parked them in a ceremony.” Moved back home, joined the family business, and married. A few years later, at a friend’s wedding, you found yourself onstage with a guitar when the band invited you up. What was the turning point for you to balance being both a top-level builder and a top-level musician?

I’m not sure I’ve found that balance. Both businesses are very demanding and require a lot of attention. My wife Christina is really the one who makes it all happen. It’s a work in progress. I look forward to finding that balance!

Building homes and songs are directly related. “People would likely assume that musicians and those who build houses have very different talents. Both artistic creativity and constructional abilities tend to be attributed to the right hemisphere of the brain. When you build a house, you dig the surface and pour the footings, and that’s like the bass and drums in a song–It establishes the foundation. You then put the guitar on it, and maybe the keys which is like building up from the foundation. Maybe you want horns in it, and that’s like the drywall. Then you hand it over to the mixing engineers, which are like painters. They apply the final colors and fine finishing touches that go on the project.” What’s the best advice you’ve been given that you’ve been able to apply to both careers?

I’m not sure I can name one piece of advice that I have received or learned myself. This simple fact comes to mind: The world doesn’t owe you anything. If you want it, you need to work hard for it.

Cutting your teeth in the music industry. Played country and bluegrass on the banjo until you could grip a guitar at age 15. Your father taught you a few chords and you tried to mirror the artists you listened to on a cassette player. Influenced by Hank Williams Jr. and Merle Haggard.

Helped form a trio, Swamp Yankee. This led you to connect with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. The two produced your debut album, From the Heart, in 2001. “They taught me how to react onstage, how to hear things, what to listen for. They taught me so many things, and I play with guys to this day, that are seasoned musicians, that they’re not even out of kindergarten with the thought process [compared to them].” It was Vaughan’s guitar playing that inspired you to take your own to new levels. What can schools do to inspire students to get involved in their music programs?

This is a tough one that I think about often. I played trumpet when I was in school, and it was never relevant to the world I was living in so I lost interest. I think schools would have more interest in their musical curriculum if they could offer relevancy to their students. I understand why schools stick to the big band/orchestra type of music teaching. It teaches kids discipline and offers a structured lesson plan for kids to read music etc. However, it doesn’t inspire the students to get excited about learning what they are commonly listening to. Kids need to find satisfaction in learning something they are interested in. The more they are interested, the more they will want to learn. This isn’t an easy task because each kid is different but I think that may be a good direction to start in.

Started writing songs at age nineteen and playing professionally in your late twenties — to sharing the stage with guitar masters like Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, and BB King.

“I have overwhelming respect for BB King. He was such a beautiful human being. He was the same person on the stage as he was off. He was kind and sweet. The stuff he went through should make my life seem simple. He went through segregation, playing in venues where he couldn’t use the bathroom. That makes me sick, but he was still BB King. You just felt good around him. He spread love. If you were the opening band, you had to be the last one to meet him at the end of the night after the show. The paying customers came first. Sometimes I would stand 2–3 hours in line, and it was worth it every time. He cared about people. I try to be that guy — I am the same on and off the stage. I’m happy on the stage and happy off the stage.” Can you share a favorite memory from opening for King?

It was my fifth time opening for Mr. King. He sent me to his dressing room. I was scared out of my mind because I thought I may have done something wrong. He told me to sit down, and then he started to tell me how much he enjoyed my guitar playing, my show, and what I did with the audience. I wish I could remember everything he said to me because I literally zoned out, knowing I was being blessed by the master.

Success in building — houses and music. “The farther I get away from Berkshire County, the more famous I become. There’s no doubt about it. People know me as Albert around here, and I’m a different guy when I get on the stage.” You said, “To me there are two types of musicians. There are creators and performers. The performers perform what the creators created. Ninety-eight percent are performers instead of creators. It’s hard to be a creator, but I don’t want to be a performer–I want to be a creator. To do that you have to have your own road, and maybe sometimes there is no road — just woods and you must navigate through the woods without even a trail. If you are unique to yourself, nobody can compete with you.” Which musician/creators have influenced you the most?

I think BB King would be my biggest influence. Not only in music but in life in general. No matter how hard life was for him, he had his intentions of doing what he loved while at the same time being kind. Stevie Ray Vaughan also falls into this category. He set his sights on his music, and that’s all he cared about. His bass player Tommy Shannon is another perfect example of this. He told me that while he was in high school, his guidance counselor told him he needed to get a real job and that music wasn’t a viable career choice. Tommy became one of the greatest bass players the world has ever known. It was because of his conviction, not his guidance counselor.

In response to missing your family’s special moments while on tour, “I was angry that I’d missed that. It put the brakes on.” In terms of managing the two professional pursuits, you said your designer wife, Christina, helped you find balance while running the family business while you are on the road. What has helped you the most to balance your private and professional lives through difficult times?

I think I had to learn how to shut things down at a flick of a switch. When I am in the construction business, I have to shut off the music business and vice versa. For both of the businesses, I had to learn how to shut them both off while with my family. Early on in the construction world I had to learn how to not take the job home. This is not an easy task. To be able to concentrate on the task at hand requires focus and you can’t focus when your head is everywhere else.

The new album, Strong, is a culmination of your musical journey to date and it topped the Billboard Blues Album chart.

“‘My Sister’s Guitar’ is also a very deep song for me and is written for my sister who passed away four years ago. She was my best friend and my ‘best man’ at my wedding. I wrote that after my brother-in-law brought a guitar case out the day after my sister died and said it was my sister’s guitar, and that it was for me.” How difficult is it to share personal stories in lyrics?

I actually enjoy it, so it isn’t that difficult for me. However, I do tend to sometimes disguise the actual story of what I’m writing about. I want the listener to be able to relate to my lyrics, and if I’m too specific, they might not find common ground with what I’m saying.

“I very rarely cover songs, but here’s a little bit about a song that I was itching to put my spin on for the longest time, “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” by none other than The Beatles.” What makes this Beatles tune so special to you?

I just thought it would be a fun song to cover the way I did it. It’s certainly recognizable because it’s a Beatles song but it has a fun message that is simple and straight to the point.

How have your fans influenced your music?

Chris Layton from Double Trouble (SRV) told me long ago: if you believe all the good then you have to believe all the bad. This hit a nerve for me and it made me realize that I need to do what I want to do and not let the outer world change my direction. My fans have been great supporters of mine. I have a large variety of influences and styles of music inside of my music. So with that I realize that not everyone is going to like every one of my songs. That’s ok with me and it should be that way. People have different tastes, and sometimes they’re not shy about telling me. I think the best thing I can do for my fans, and myself is to be true to my own style and let the cards fall where they do.

The Strong Tour. “I’m not easy to play with because I don’t stick to form. I don’t use a playlist and go off script, doing different tempos and song within songs, etc. For a long time, I had trouble finding bass players but now I’m having unbelievable bass players playing with me and am enjoying the positive energy they bring. I have also added keys for the first time. Kevin McKendree was Delbert’s player for thirty years and he adds a whole new element. I would like to work towards a second guitar and background singers too.” How do you see your music evolving over the next five years?

Someone recently told me that I should keep a journal of all my musical experiences. I thought about it for a minute and realized that my songs are my journal. I write about life experiences and people I meet thru them. I’m not sure where my life will take me so I’m not sure I can predict where my music will go. The one thing I know is I will always be honest with my music and give the listeners something that only I can give them. Which is just me.