Craig Cummings – The Gulf Between Us
When I think of places that Americana musicians hail from, Washington, D.C. is not the first place that comes to mind. Nor the second or third stop down the list. But Craig Cummings definitely changed my mind on that topic.
The Gulf Between Us is Craig’s fifth studio album and was released on April 2,2021. Like a lot of recent releases, Cummings recorded and produced The Gulf Between Us in the midst of the current pandemic. So he mainly used musicians he had worked with previously. Grant Kushner on guitar and bass (Grant also served as the sound engineer and co-producer for the album), Andy Hamburger on drums and percussion, and Brian Simms on keyboard an accordion all have worked previously with Cummings. Tiffany Shanta on the violin is the lone newcomer to Craig’s recordings.
Music should always make a statement, and The Gulf Between Us does that from the opening notes of the title track all the way through to the closing remarks of the final song. “The Gulf Between Us” sets the stage for the entire album, painting the picture of where our nation is today. Torn with strife and division, “You say flat, and I say round, you stick to white, and I welcome brown. What you think is truth I call lies, things you find funny just make me cry.”, such a starkly beautiful statement of our troubled nation. “Everyone’s unhappy, No one’s satisfied.” Yeah, pretty much sums up the political turmoil we have seen the past few years.
“The Southern Wall” is a vehicle to showcase the strength of Cummings’ voice. Crisp, succinct, soothing while singing of the despair of border crossings pursuing the dream of a better way. Not just here, but throughout the entire album, he drives home that you don’t have to have a southern drawl to release an excellent Americana album.
“Mama and Me” continues the despair and plight of those seeking an escape from the violence of the drug cartels. “When Momma and me crossed the Rio Grande Valley looking for mercy in the land of the free. They rounded us up and put us in prison for no good reason, just to be mean.” Just a beautiful description of a horrible situation. One to which most of us are clueless or at least turn a blind eye.
“Like Thieves” continues the tale of the immigrants’ plight. Singing the story of working constantly to barely survive in the land of milk and honey. Living life like thieves, day to day “like shadows on dead end streets” Overlooked and ignored in hopes they will go away, struggling daily, living like thieves but still hoping, dreaming for the betterment they came in search of, but still not found.
“Sleeping Alone” and “Living Without You” both deal with love lost. Both dealing with someone leaving, one running away, one leaving the world behind. “Sleeping Alone” finds us dealing with a lover lost, sleeping alone while she is on the run. “Your tires kicked out dust and gravel you told me you just needed to travel, and I couldn’t ride shotgun this time.” How does the heart left behind deal with being left? How do you get used to sleeping alone at night?
“Sleeping Alone”’s story is still not nearly as tragic as the tale that “Living Without You’”spins… The loss of the lover and dealing with the aftermath of knowing they are gone: “Ten years from now I’ll still hear you calling my name, I’ll remember Paris walking by the Seine. Thinking of all the good times mostly brings me pain, I know I’ll never lay with you again… The preacher talked about your goodness. But all I could think of was your eyes. The way you looked into me. The love behind the blue.” He is barely living alone without her.
Wrapping up The Gulf Between Us, “Safe” is a look into what we have all been dealing with the past year, the pandemic. “How do I keep you safe? How do I keep you close? How do I keep you safe? The ones I love the most. How do I keep you safe? Safe, How do I keep you safe?” How many times have all of us asked these questions over the last year? Having not seen my parents in the last fourteen months, this one truly hits home. Cummings asks the question we have all been asking, “When will we get back to normal?”
The Gulf Between Us is full of great, well written songs that make statements, as music should. It and Craig Cummings definitely put Washington, D.C. on the map as far as great Americana music lives. https://www.craigcummingsmusic.com