Grace Cummings (ATO)
It’s the passion, the lyrical emotion, the vocals, but mostly it’s the range – the range of all of the above – that make Grace Cummings unique and a talent that will need to be dealt with for years to come. As Cummings’ second album and ATO debut, Storm Queen, started to seep into the universe earlier this year, most notably through the debut single, “Heaven,” there were inklings that may be something special. But that was undeniably driven home by her World Café performance at this year’s NON-COMMvention, when Cummings commanded the attention of everyone in the room with her overt confidence delivering her music to a critical industry crowd and her open and revealing answers to every question posed by host Raina Douris, conveying a sense that she’s totally comfortable with herself.
“I always have things very close to the surface – it’s actually harder for me to just exist in the normal world,” says Cummings who is also a stage actor when she’s not making music. “I generally feel quite comfortable when I’m recording, because I’m allowed to be absolutely myself instead of trying to hide anything.”
That ease and confidence can be found not only in Cummings’ live performance, but also in the tracks that make up her self-produced Storm Queen, a sparse recording labeled as a Folk album that just through judicious instrumentation and skillfully acrobatic vocals is so much more. Starting with the ferocious growl of “Heaven,” giving way to the sweetly melodic “Always New Days Always,” Cummings takes the listener on a journey of searching, solitude, loneliness, peace and love, applying arrangements to enhance the lyrics, with each twist and turn of the road a pleasant surprise to open ears, suggesting a great deal of spontaneity in her music.
“I’m not precious at all about recording; it just doesn’t make sense to me,” she explains. “I am who I am and I sound how I sound and I’m not really interested in going in like some kind of magician to try to make it sound any different.” Cummings may not be interested in being a musical sorcerer, but her direct, unfettered approach has created enough magic to gain the interest of WXPN, The Current, WAPS, KBAC, WFPK, KEXP, KHUM and more as she continues to attract her audience as organically as possible.