John Cummings (New CD Review!)

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"Arkansas Caramel"

John Cummings (New CD Review!)



September 1, 2020:

Various Artists (Ecko): Blues Mix 31: Dirty South Soul (Ecko)
Three Stars *** Solid. The artists' fans will enjoy.

I will always associate this latest entry, #31 in Ecko Records' Blues Mix Series, Dirty South Soul, with John Cummings and his grand finale to the sampler, "Memphis Blues Brothers".

This is a mellow album. Nothing much stands out or sticks out. Contributions by such heavyweights as Donnie Ray and David Brinston are pretty vanilla, and big guns like Ms. Jody and O.B. Buchana never get rowdy, much less cock their pistols. In such soft surroundings, it's easy for anyone---even a folksy-leaning blues man---to stand out, and Cummings' "Memphis Blues Brothers" indubitably does, although it's possible you have to be a southern soul insider to really appreciate it.

Listen to John Cummings singing "Memphis Blues Brothers" on YouTube.

John Cummings, for those who have never heard of him, is one of the most accomplished and well-loved songwriters in southern soul music. He's written or co-written such songs as:

“I Never Take A Day Off” by Ms. Jody
“Cutting Up Sideways” by Joy
“Girl In The Hood” by Jerry L
“Blue Collar Man” by Barbara Carr
“I’m Going Home” by O.B. Buchana
“Lipstick On His Pants” by Sheba Potts-Wright
“This Is The Party” by Rick Lawson
“A Man Like That” by Ms. Jody
“Why Can’t I Be Your Lover?” by O. B. Buchana
and “Trail Ride” by Jaye Hammer

Not to mention his own tunes, especially the classic, "Here In The South (Everybody's Talking 'Bout The Dirty South)”.

Research John Cummings history inDaddy B. Nice’s Comprehensive Index.

Cummings is one of a select group of Memphis-area singer/songwriters who write songs for Ecko Records, where royalties form the backbone of the label. Cummings, whose lyrics combine an affection for Delta culture with a storyteller's knack for the right phrase and a nursery-rhymer's sense of compression, is the most compelling of all the talent in the house, many of whom are mentioned in this song, and "Memphis Blues Brothers" commemorates them.

Here are a few of the "blues brothers" your Daddy B. Nice recognized: David Brinston, Terry Wright, O.B. Buchana, Mr. Sam, Gerod Rayburn, Buster Brown (although later I'm thinking Booker Brown?), John Ward, Morris J. Williams (who comes in for special acknowledgement as "producer extraordinaire"), Kirby Smooth, Larry Chambers, Nate Dogg, Charles Holyfield, Sonny Mack, Fat Daddy, Jaye Hammer, Big Poppa, Marquis of Soul, Jerry L, Melvino, Stacy Merino, Willie Hall, James Jackson, Joe Butler "and others..." as the song says at the end of every couplet. Only think what a list it would have been if Cummings had included the Memphis-area "blues sisters".

Of the other artists of note on Blues Mix 31:Dirty South Soul, Jaye Hammer is represented by perhaps the best selections---"Party Mood" (a remix) and the wondrous "Party At Home".

Rick Lawson, a Jackson, Mississippi artist who has starting recording again recently, contributes an affecting ballad called "She Don't Love Me" and Mose Stovall makes an unusual appearance on an Ecko label release with his somber slow jam, "Somebody's Gettin' It".

In addition to the already-noted appearances by Ms. Jody ("Turn It Up," "You Can Ride"), O.B. Buchana "Shugga Daddy"), Donnie Ray ("Drowning In My Own Tears") and David Brinston ("Don't Tease Me With It"), the compilation includes Gerod Rayburn's Lee "Shot" Williams-like ("Night Time Lovers") and Val McKnight's pleasant ("Boo Thang Man")

---Daddy B. Nice

Listen to all the tracks from Blues Mix 31: Dirty South Soul on YouTube.

Buy Blues Mix 31: Dirty South Soul at Amazon.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to John Cummings.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Mission accomplished.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy John Cummings' BACK ON THE GRIND (hard copy).

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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)

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Listen to Big John Cummings singing "Mississippi Chocolate" Live Onstage in Mobile, Alabama on YouTube.

--Daddy B. Nice


Tidbits

1.

Tracking down John Cummings' "Here In The South"


Excerpted from Daddy B. Nice's Corner: April 13, 2014 News & Notes:

4. Great New Southern Soul Song, Artist Unknown: "EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT THE DIRTY SOUTH"

Please help your Daddy B. Nice find the artist behind this record and rescue it from oblivion. I heard it once, either in Mississippi or Louisiana, or maybe Mobile. It has a rootsy, “Mississippi Boy” quality. If you remember The Winstons, it sounds a little like them.

Here’s a taste of the terrific lyrics, and I wasn’t even attracted to the song by the lyrics. The musical groove is even better. The title, you’d imagine, is “Everybody's Talking About The Dirty South,” but I haven’t seen anything remotely close on the deejay charts anywhere.

“I take it,
That’s the way we do it, y’all, in the South,
When we show up, y'all, we show out.
You better ask somebody what it’s all about.
I tell ya, that’s the way we do it down in the south.

Mel Waiters, T.K. and O.B.,
Sir Charles, Ms. Jody, and ----
Tickets twenty dollars, twenty-five at the gate.
You’d better get up early, y’all, don’t be late.

You got the blues clubs jumping in spring and fall.
And every little town has a hole in the wall.
They’re up all Saturday night having a ball.
Hit the church on Sunday to repent of it all.

I tell ya
That’s the way we do it, y’all, in the South.
When we show up, we show out,
You better ask somebody what it’s all about.
I tell ya, that’s the way we do it, y’all, in the South.

Big-bootied women on the disco floor.
----- deejay rocking Southern soul.
Everybody happy, all the clubs are filled
Good corn whiskey, we get our fill….”

The lyrics are getting a little sketchy, but you get the idea. And by the way, when this singer says "ask," he pronounces it "axe." This shows he is not a pretender. He really is from the South.

--Daddy B. Nice

April 16, 2014 Update: No one's said anything, but I've got a lead. Watching deejay playlists for the word "south," I finally discovered a reference to the title "south" on Soul And Blues Report's "Reporters" page. DJ Tori Bailey, WZZA Tuscambia, Alabama--always cutting-edge, always consistent--listed "Here In The South" by Big John Cummings, whose new album coincidentally was favorably reviewed by Daddy B. Nice just last month.



But this song's not on it. So I went back to the search engine and eventually wound up listening to a sample. That was it. DBN

(Later that night: John Ward of Ecko Records checked in with Daddy B. Nice, confirming the song is "Here In The South" by John Cummings. The song appears on Blues Mix 11: Sweet Soul Blues. DBN.)

Read Daddy B. Nice's Review of John Cummings' BACK ON THE GRIND CD.

(Much later: If your Daddy B. Nice reviewed the Blues Mix 11 sampler--and truthfully, I don't even want to go there right now--"Here In The South" slipped through my net. But sometimes you shrug off a song the first time you hear it. Maybe the old attention span gives out. Maybe it just doesn't click.

The key is that second time, especially if you hear it by surprise on the radio. The song overwhelms you, it sounds like an anthem. "I've heard this before," you think to yourself, "I LOVE this song."

The first time is the nibble. The second time sets the hook. DBN.)

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Honorary "B" Side

"Mr. Do Right"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Arkansas Caramel by John Cummings (New CD Review!)
Arkansas Caramel


CD: Back On The Grind
Label: Q.T.

Sample or Buy
Back On The Grind


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Mr. Do Right by John Cummings (New CD Review!)
Mr. Do Right


CD: Back On The Grind
Label: Q.T.

Sample or Buy
Back On The Grind


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy One Leg In, One Leg Out by John Cummings (New CD Review!)
One Leg In, One Leg Out


CD: Big Enough
Label: Labro



4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Outside Man by John Cummings (New CD Review!)
Outside Man


CD: Good To The Last Drop
Label: QT

Sample or Buy
Good To The Last Drop


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Serious Love (feat. Keri) by John Cummings (New CD Review!)
Serious Love (feat. Keri)


CD: Back On The Grind
Label: Q.T.

Sample or Buy
Back On The Grind


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Mississippi Chocolate by John Cummings (New CD Review!)
Mississippi Chocolate


CD: Good To The Last Drop
Label: Q.T.



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