Craig Cummings Music

New Year’s Thoughts From A Songwriter
January 2, 2015, 10:09 am
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Jan 1 beach scene

A new year encourages contemplation…What did I make of myself last year? What will I make of the coming year. Am I moving forward? Treading water? Losing ground? The answer for most of us is probably, “Yeah, all those things.” There are things of which we can be proud, things we could have done better, and some things we should not have done and would like to forget. I think that’s how life goes. So here is my “stuff.” What about yours?

Moving Forward

  1. I wrote some of the best songs of my career.
  2. Started working on my next recordings (yes, plural!).
  3. Worked with and met many new songwriters and musicians.
  4. I took multiple songwriting classes, each of which provided an expanded view on the craft and art of songwriting. I could write multiple posts about this – which I probably will in the coming weeks.
  5. Sought and received feedback on my writing from lots of sources, including thoughts from many people I barely know.
  6. Re-started a monthly performing songwriters’ showcase in Baltimore, which gave me the opportunity to hear and learn from a large group of very talented people. It was so much fun putting these shows together…kind of like making a live mix tape. But the biggest payoff – creating a better sense of community among songwriters and musicians. I think that happened and I got a lot out of that.
  7. Had a song selected for a juried CD compilation.

Treading Water

  1. Recorded some new music but did not get around to actually releasing it.
  2. Played a good number of gigs, but have not yet moved on to some of the more prestigious venues I’d like to be playing.
  3. Played with a number of really fine musicians but have yet to find that steady collaborator that I am looking for…you know, that one person with whom you can write and sing and play, and it’s all good.
  4. Even though I improved as a writer, there are many ways that I could have improved even more. I get impatient sometimes.

Losing Ground

  1. Well, I don’t think there are any ways in which I’ve actually regressed, but… time marches on and I’m not getting any younger. So the question (which is really impossible to answer but easy to fret about) is if my rate of forward progress as a songwriter is faster than the rate at which time is running out to do all of the things that I want to do as a songwriter. I try not to think about this too much and put one foot in front of the other… and write!
  2. I may be losing ground in keeping up with all of the new music coming out – especially some of the stuff that doesn’t interest me or strikes me as being contrived by music industry business people who only care about making money. I’ll refrain from being specific here because I’m not into dissing performers and songwriters. And, I am most certainly not against making money. But some stuff just seems so contrived and formulaic… like I said, I may be losing some ground here, but I’m trying. And I also realize that there is always something to be learned from new music no matter how I might judge it – because things change, don’t they?

My Resolutions For 2015

  1. Write better songs.
  2. Write better songs.
  3. Write better songs.
  4. Release some of the recordings I’ve already made and continue to work on (and release) some new ones.
  5. Find more co-writers.
  6. Write better songs.

Oh yeah… and I’ll keep wondering about my rate of forward progress. Happy New Year everyone. Care to share your thoughts on how you’ve moved forward, treaded water, or lost some ground? I’d love to hear them. We all need company on this journey. Is this your first time reading my blog? Then follow me to continue the discussion (click the follow button on the left). Conversation is a good thing.

Peace And A Cold Beer,




New Music From Baltimore Songwriters in 2013

Craig at El Nopalito

Baltimore’s stable of aspiring songwriters seems to grow by leaps and bounds every year. Acts such as J. Roddy Walston and the Business and Beach House get much of the national attention, and they have certainly earned their recognition. Unfortunately, there are many outstanding performing songwriters from Baltimore that do not receive the publicity they deserve. I put out a request through the Facebook page of the Baltimore Songwriter’s Association (BSA) asking for members to respond if they had released new music in 2013. What follows is a brief description of the 2013 releases of BSA members, and a listing without descriptions, of others who responded but are not BSA members. This is by no means an exhaustive listing of what was recorded and released by Baltimore artists, but if you are interested in exploring what is happening on the local songwriting scene, this will get you started. If you like what you hear, these artists would love to see you at their live shows.

2013 Releases by BSA Members

ilyAIMY – Another Life/Another Live

Another Life/Another Live is quintet ilyAIMY’s latest release. Rob Hinkal’s percussive guitar work and Heather Aubrey Lloyd’s grab-your-attention, silky-smooth vocals form the backbone of ilyAIMY’s sound. Kristen Thomas adds outstanding work on cello, Shareef Kellog is a solid piano player, and Rowan Corbett anchors the group’s rhythmic approach to “new folk” music with his inventive approach to cajon, and other assorted bits of percussion.

Songs of note include Oracle, Silent Little Bells, and Elephant Joke. Heather owns the songwriting honors for the first two songs mentioned, while Rob claims rights to Elephant Joke. One suspects, however, that all band members have significant input into the songs, as ilyAIMY presents as a true ensemble rather than a group that serves the direction of its lead singer or guitarist.

Another Life/Another Live is one of the best releases from Baltimore-based songwriters in 2013. It bears repeated listening. And, don’t miss their live show. They never disappoint.

Richard Walton – Cover Me or…/dp/B00BV9JDCK/ref=sr_1_1…

Richard Walton’s newest release, Cover Me, features songs by 60’s, ’70’s & 80’s recording artists including The First Edition, Poco, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, and, Badfinger. If you are searching for updated interpretations of classic songs from earlier decades, Cover Me gets you there. The production is outstanding and the numerous musicians who contribute tracks to these songs are all top-notch performers.

Naked Blue – Weightless

Jen & Scott Smith released their 5th CD in 2013. Weightless is a collection of pop music gems featuring Jen’s sweet voice and Scott’s classy guitar playing and intricate production. As long time members of the local songwriting community, Naked Blue continue to prove that they are one of Baltimore’s most talented and accomplished acts. Every song on this CD is solid. I especially enjoyed Tilt-A-Whirl, Left Standing, and Charm.

Queen Earth – Adult Contemporary

Missy Smith (AKA Queen Earth) has recently located to the left coast, but for many years she was a mainstay of the Baltimore songwriting community. Her latest release, Adult Contemporary, features spare instrumental arrangements of mostly guitar and percussion accompanying her soul-sweet voice. Her songs of personal empowerment, romantic relationships, and social justice are heartfelt. Now that she has relocated, the local songwriting community will miss her contributions. But it’s a small world these days – so I’m sure Baltimore will hear more from Queen Earth in 2014.

Woody Lissauer & Rachel Elise – Faded Name

Faded Name is a 4-song EP released by prolific songwriter/guitarist/producer Woody Lissauer and vocalist Rachel Elise. This is an intoxicating, dreamy collection of songs that would have been a great musical backdrop for the defunct TV series Twin Peaks, or any other dreamy, hard-to-grasp-narrative. And don’t get me wrong – I love these kind of stories, and I think the songs on Faded Name would be an excellent choice as a soundtrack for an art house movie or cutting-edge television series.

Woody also released numerous videos of his work in 2013. The list is provided below.

Will Jenkins – Earth Anthem

Earth Anthem is the latest single release from Will Jenkins. It reminds the listener of a 60’s era pop song that might have been released by Stealer’s Wheel (Stuck In The Middle With You) or The Cyrkle (Red Rubber Ball). While the arrangements and production are simple, there is a certain charm to this cut, and it will be interesting to see if Will has more coming for us in 2014.

Mosno Al-Mooseeki – Shukrah My Totem; No Kingdom (Faisal Goes West)

Third-world rocker Mosno Al-Mooseeki released 2 singles in 2014. Shukrah My Totem is a song from his upcoming full-length release, Novella. It features Mosno’s rhythmic guitar playing and soulful voice over a middle-eastern melody. No Kingdom begins with a spare rendering of Mosno’s voice and guitar, and continues, accompanied by djembe and beautiful harmony vocals. It will be exciting to hear Novella when it is released and performed in its entirety.

Other 2013 Releases from Baltimore-Area Performing Songwriters

Harlan County Kings

Firekite – Five From Five

Paul Nitzberg – As Far As I Know

Dave Cohen – The World Didn’t End Today

John Seay – Old New

Woody Lissauer – Video Releases
Woody Lissauer & Rachel Elise – What Are You Waiting For?

Woody Lissauer – Bent but not Broken

Woody Lissauer – The French Garden

Woody Lissauer – Send in the Clowns

Cubic Feet – PCTV Live from Park City, Utah

Screams and Whispers Showcase – September Edition
September 18, 2013, 11:16 am
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The September edition of the Screams and Whispers Songwriters Showcase features well-known Baltimore performing songwriters Teporah and Mosno. Our theme for this evening is protest songs. Considering that there is no shortage of things to feel dissatisfied about these days, Thursday’s theme seems quite on point!

Teporah brings a bluesy/jazzy feel to her performances. Her sound reminds one of Laura Nyro or Karla Bonoff. Her smoky voice, adventurous piano playing, and her blending of jazz, blues, pop, and folk music makes her unique in Baltimore. For Thursday’s performance, she has promised to bring her own unique take on rather well-known protest songs.

Mosno, Baltimore’s third world rock star, is always a treat. His rhythmic approach to guitar paired with his soulful voice and thoughtful lyrics make him a favorite in the Baltimore music scene. I’m betting that Mosno may resort to some Marvin Gaye in finding a suitable protest song to perform for this night.

Your host (and yours truly), Craig Cummings, rounds out the evening with his east coast Americana sound. Craig strong voice, and powerful guitar playing support songs that put a smile on your face, a thought in your head, and a skip in your step.

The Screams and Whispers Songwriters Showcase happens Thursday night September 19th at 8:00 p.m. at Joe Squared North Ave. Joe’s pizza was just named the best in Baltimore And, the beer is always cold.

Gumbo And Gigs
March 14, 2013, 8:05 am
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03 Leaving Lafayette Readers – play this first!

I’m careful about what gigs I choose to play. I know plenty of musicians who will play just about anywhere as long as they are getting paid. I’m not one of them.

If I am going to play a room I want the place to provide a certain comfort level – a welcoming atmosphere that makes you glad you showed up. I like places with eclectic crowds where the hipsters, the cowboys, and the regular people all come together…kind of like a gumbo that mixes whatever you have on hand into some creation that is so good you have to have a second helping.

This Friday March 15th I am playing at the Chesapeake Wine Company (CWC) from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. The CWC is this kind of comfortable place. Yes, it’s a wine store and they also have plenty of beer choices, but that is just the beginning. There is something about the atmosphere of this place that just begs you to pull up a chair, makes some new friends, listen to the music, and…stay. Oh yeah – and drink more wine. The owners, Mitchell and Debbie, couldn’t be more friendly, and everyone who comes in just seems to be stopping by to sit in their living room and spend some time away from whatever else calls them.

This Friday at 5:00, I’ll become part of that gumbo. Maybe I’ll be the file` – that ingredient that thickens the dish and makes it a little more interesting than it would be otherwise. I’d like to think so. Why not stop by and add your own ingredient…see what you can bring to the gumbo that is the Chesapeake Wine Company? Friday 5:00. Be there.

He Had A Reason To Get Back To Lake Charles…

Just got back from a trip to New Orleans. Rented a car and drove to Lake Charles, LA for the day. It’s a sleepy town. The downtown area isn’t much except for a 20 story (more or less) Capital One building and a few square blocks of stores, restaurants, and the like. The marina area is nicely designed for a brief visit but it doesn’t exactly make you feel like you could spend much time there. The Pujo St. Cafe has good food and a friendly bartender. Try the fried oyster appetizer.

I got around town and checked out the beach on Lake Charles that borders I-10 and then drove to Shell Beach Dr. where the mansions are located. Now this is an area where a person could stretch out and get comfortable. Big houses, big lawns, big trees, and the houses that border the lake also have mini houses that sit on stilts out in the water, accessible by long piers. Most of these mini houses also have small “garages” that house speed boats. Old money…

Lucinda Williams wrote a song about Lake Charles…it is my favorite song of all of the songs she has written, and that is saying a lot considering that I like it more than Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Essence, Right In Time, Ventura, and Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings. The Lake Charles song is about a guy who loves the town so much that he wants to return there to die (“Did an angel whisper in your ear/And hold you close/Take away your fears/In those long last moments.”)

Lake Charles is a beautiful little place in western Louisiana. It’s kind of like many other little (and larger) towns throughout the country. What makes it special? I guess the memories one associates with it. The guy in Lucinda’s song had enough of a connection to Lake Charles that he wanted to be there when he drew his last breath. I feel you.

I grew up in Baltimore. It’s grimy – like New Orleans. But I have a connection to it. I’m not planning to experience my “long last moment” anytime soon. But, when that time comes, I think I’ll have a reason to get back…

I should have born in the south. I have a southern soul. Baltimore is much more of a southern town than people think…but it’s not Texas or Louisiana. OK, I’m rambling now.

What I’m trying to say is I visited Lake Charles and I loved it’s charm. I can understand why one who was born there or lived there for some time might want to be there when it really counts. Baltimore, like Lake Charles, has it’s charm. So, if I never get back to Lake Charles again, spending my long last moments in Baltimore wouldn’t be too bad.

It’s more of a southern town than people realize…

Opening Night at Joe Squared Power Plant Live
September 3, 2011, 10:26 am
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I performed at the new Joe Squared location at Power Plant Live on their opening night. This place is going to be a bonanza for the Joes and a great place for pizza lovers and musicians. Their pizza is – well, it’s the best around. For musicians, there will be a good walk-through crowd, there is a nice bar for patrons to drink, eat, and listen, and once it is all put together properly, a great sound system. I love playing both Joe Squared venues. They treat their musicians well, and the venue draws a crowd that is always interested in the music, even if they are not the sit still and listen types. It is a bar…but a good one for any performer who likes to interact and be friendly with an energetic audience. See you there!

Recording Update
September 14, 2010, 12:37 pm
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My newest recording project is moving along. I laid down the down the acoustic guitar tracks in late August and I’ll be taking the band into the studio this Sunday. My core band includes Kurt Hammond on guitar, Edward Graham on bass and Doug Workman on drums. I call them the Wildcards. We’ve been rehearsing for the past 2 weeks and I’m excited about the songs. I have high hopes for this CD. The songs have plenty of lyrical integrity (no silly stories about green tractors and such) and also have good commercial appeal. My current CD is getting airplay on country radio stations and I think many of the songs on the new recording will be even more appealing to radio programmers. I’ll write again after the recording session this weekend and will probably post a rough cut of one of the songs.

Jakob Dylan At the Rams Head Live in Baltimore
April 23, 2010, 7:00 am
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Jakob Dylan and his band rolled into Baltimore Thursday night fresh off an appearance on the David Letterman Show. Night owl that I am, I saw the Letterman performance and went to bed determined to see their live show last night. Jakob chose to play Nothing in the Whole Wide World for their Letterman appearance and on Thursday night they chose the same song for their opener. From the start it was clear that this was not going to be an opportunity for Jakob to revisit his indie rock career – different band and a whole different feel. On this night Jakob presented an Americana vibe – a little country, a little bit of folk, and some occasional forays into rock n’ roll. With Neko Case and Kelly Hogan providing understated but beautiful back-up singing, this performance was all about putting the songs first. And, Dylan’s writing gets better as he goes along. The songs are more personal, more direct. His singing benefits as the writing takes on more of a first-person narrative. His voice, with echoes of his famous father, has its own resonance and identity. He know how to deliver a song effectively, yet he allows the song take center stage and never demands the personal spotlight.

Also notable were the musical performances of his band members, particularly the contributions from his pedal steel and stand-up bass players. Fans of Americana music or anyone who enjoys good songwriting and honest straightforward musical performances will leave his show wishing he was a local who they could see sometime soon in another venue across town. AS he tours in support of his latest CD, Women + Country, be sure to buy your ticket.

Live Show March 6th At The Senator Theater in Baltimore

I will be appearing live at the historic Senator Theater in Baltimore on Saturday March 6th back by the Wildcards, a wonderful trio of musicians including Kurt Hammond on guitar, Edward Graham on bass, and Doug Workman in drums. Also appearing that evening will be T. Edwin Doss and Steve Hung. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. They can be purchased online by clicking here

The Senator is a beautiful venue and provides a concert setting for this evening of country/Americana music. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the music begins at 8:30 p.m. For information and directions to the Senator Theater visit their website