The short-hand way to describe Albert Cummings’ Ten is the blues rocker’s gone country. But the more nuanced explanation is an artist known for blues rock has discovered depth and complexity within a new style.
Cummings has always played with different musical genres. His previous album, 2020’s Believe featured soul touches like his cover of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming,” but Ten is all rugged power country—even the ballads—with some nice digressions into horn-driven rhythm and blues. Cummings’ guitar is still impressive and ever-present, with plenty of twangy blues-inspired licks, but it feels much more like modern country, where the solos dazzle and then recede into the background.
Without the guitar as the focal point, Cummings directs his strong vocals front-and-center, and it pays off. He’s a strong singer and while his voice won’t haunt you, he puts a lot of power and intensity behind it, making for a compelling listen. He’s not a guitar player who also sings, but a singer who also happens to be a talented guitarist. The recasting works for Cummings and for his songs.
“Last Call” is fast country featuring Vince Gill. Lyrically, it’s nothing profound, with familiar country lines like, “You don’t have to go home / But you can’t stay here,” but the vibe is pure country, evoking a very specific kind of energy that’s enhanced by Cummings’ countrified guitar and rollicking piano. Country fans hearing this on a country station wouldn’t blink twice at this tune; Cummings nails the style perfectly.
All of the country tracks, from the rockers to the ballads, sound authentic. This isn’t Cummings arbitrarily deciding to try on a style. He sounds committed and serious, which is why the songs work. But there are also some more soul-flavored tracks, complete with horns, that also work well. “Alive and Breathing” is hip, with a big band swing, funky bass, and tasty guitar playing. His vocals are fiery, but with a coolness that makes for a great track.
“Got You Covered” explores a similar sound, an uptown blues coupled with rock bombast. Cummings throws a lot at the listener, and while the track is dense, it works. Part of the reason is a catchy melody, but it also succeeds because, while there’s so much going on, everything happening is high quality.
Ten‘s cover is a simple shot of Cummings in some kind of fedora or cowboy hat, beaming. The huge smile captures the album perfectly. Cummings sounds like he’s having a great time. I have a huge amount of respect for Cummings, but I’m also not a big fan of country. And yet I can tell this is a special album. It’s strong songs and thoughtful guitar that transcends genre. Cummings sounds locked in and he seems to know it. Ten will give everyone a similar smile.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Last Call
– Got You Covered
– Too Old to Grow Up
– Alive and Breathing
The Big Hit
– Alive and Breathing