(Big) John Cummings
Daddy B. Nice's #110 ranked Southern Soul Artist
(Big) John Cummings
April 25, 2015: It's On YouTube!
Listen to John Cummings singing "That's The Way We Do It In The South (Here In The South)" on YouTube.
April 20, 2014: NEW SINGLE ALERT!
See the #1 southern soul single for MAY 2014, "HERE IN THE SOUTH" by John Cummings, upcoming on Daddy B. Nice's Corner in May.
"Here In The South" appears on Blues Mix 11: Sweet Soul Blues
To automatically link to John Cummings' charted radio singles, awards, citations and other references on the website, go to "Cummings, John" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
JOHN CUMMINGS: Back On The Grind (Q.T.) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort
Longtime Southern Soul songwriter John Cummings continues to hone his singing voice, a country-inflected tenor high on sensitivity and humility, in this, his second major southern soul collection in the last five years, Back On The Grind.
The first single from the album debuted on Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Review in March 2014:
3. "Arkansas Caramel"-----------------John Cummings
Now this is southern soul. It’s so hard to describe, yet so instantly recognizable. Reminds me of Karen Wolfe’s “Man Enough.” This is that mid-tempo, sweet-spot heart of southern r&b courtesy of James L. Cain's rhythm track and guitar sound.
And kudos on the vocal by longtime songwriter Cummings (Jaye Hammer's "Soul Train Dancer," O.B. Buchana's "I'm Goin' Back Home," Rick Lawson's "This Is The Party," Sheba Potts-Wright's "Lipstick On His Pants," Joy's "Cuttin' Up Sideways," Ms. Jody's "I Never Take A Day Off" and his own "Outside Man" (2010).
Cummings is a gifted and unique songwriter, as evidenced by the deeply provocative but at the same time just as deeply courageous lyrics of a song like "I Want Both Of You," made famous in the Southern Soul universe by O.B. Buchana, the recording artist with whom Cummings has been most closely associated.
Not a few of the other compositions were co-written, and BACK ON THE GRIND features a contemporary "Who's Who" of Memphis-area soul musicians who have worked with Big John in the past. They include Morris J. Williams, who provides the same trademark-wispy, background singing that he's contributed to so many Ecko Records tracks, and Percy T. Friends, who provides the lone non-Cummings-written track, "Serious Love." Cummings and Friends go all the way back to Joy's "Cuttin' Up Sideways" album in 2006, on which they collaborated.
The key new benefactors on the CD are producers/arrangers James L. Cain and Eddie "Q.T." Taylor, who along with Cummings give the set an authentic-sounding, traditional Southern Soul character in short supply these days. Especially appealing is the lead-guitar picking on "Mr. Do Right" and "Arkansas Caramel," which blends perfectly with Cummings' much-improved vocals. Both songs represent major advances over Cummings' previous top single, "Outside Man," which charted in May of 2010.
Listen to John Cummings singing "Mr. Do Right" on YouTube.
For a songwriter with so many previous hits by other artists in circulation, your Daddy B. Nice recognized only one previously-recorded tune on the set: "Crazy About You, Baby," recorded by David Brinston on his 2008 PARTY TIME CD (the disc with "I Just Love Women").
Cummings' collection does have its share of conventional tracks, perhaps evidence that Cummings raided his unwanted demos to fill out the CD, but even the "ordinary" tunes avoid the pejorative "filler." Bluesy title track "Back On The Grind" is the paradigm--not striving for too much, but giving it to you with consummate style.
That's why, in a happy departure from tried-and-true singer/songwriter tradition, the Percy Friends-written song "Serious Love"--the last on the disc--comes as such a pleasant shock, taking the album to a whole new level before its conclusion. When--for the first time on the album--a woman's voice appears, you're blown away by the extra dimension it gives the song, and you also realize that much of the album is somewhat bare by comparison from a producing-and-arranging standpoint.
"Serious Love" showcases the silky-voiced but seldom-heard southern soul singer Keri, whose single "Borrowed Time" charted on Daddy B. Nice's Top 10: April 2007.
Ironically, in light of the great guitar work on "Arkansas Caramel" and "Mr. Do Right," "Serious Love" is limited by the lack of a strong lead-guitar or horn-section beefing up its melody line, which leads one to believe that once Cummings puts all the elements together--the good songwriting, the good instrumentation and the evocative female backgrounds--he'll have some genuine hit material.
The true worth of BACK ON THE GRIND is a quartet of stand-out tracks: "Serious Love" feat. Keri, "Arkansas Caramel," "Mr. Do Right" and, last but not least, the odd-but-impression-making, slow-tempo, Mtume's "Juicy Fruit"-like "Black Beauty," on which Big John makes a legitimate effort to stretch the emotive power of his vocals.
--Daddy B. Nice
Sample/Buy John Cummings' BACK ON THE GRIND (hard copy).
John Cummings Discography
Gotta Hear Some Blues Tonight (Kool Breeze 2001)
Somebody's Gotta Do It (Lee 2004)
Love Line (Kool Breeze 2008)
Did Them Cowboys Win? (Ark-Lachi 2009)
Good To The Last Drop (QT 2009)
Big Enough (Labro Ent. 2010)
Back On The Grind (QT 2013)
Listen to Big John Cummings singing "Mississippi Chocolate" Live Onstage in Mobile, Alabama on YouTube.
--Daddy B. Nice
Honorary "B" Side
"Mr. Do Right"
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