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Wind Mill
Artist: Richard Cummins
Label: Electrotone - Indie
Time: 17 tracks/50:37

Canadian guitarist/composer/singer Richard Cummins is an artist that seems to almost have found his way onto the current scene by visiting from an alternate time-line where the best of classic Christian rock has just peaked. His inspirations lean more toward Larry Norman, Phil Keaggy and The Beatles than The Clash, Underoath or Switchfoot. Cummins has two projects available right now: one is a vocal pop album full of classic rock references, and the other, Wind Mill,  is an instrumental album done in much the same vein as Phil Keaggy’s ‘loop’ projects. 

On Wind Mill, armed only with an acoustic Taylor guitar and a Boss RC-50 Loop Station, Cummins has created seventeen tracks of fine improvisational composing and performing. A word might be needed to explain the process: Cummins creates spontaneous compositions on guitar and plays into a ‘loop station’ that will store and repeat the recorded information, allowing layers of sound to be added live and on-the-spot. By doing this, the player actually gets to ‘jam’ with himself (Keaggy’s hardware of choice is actually called the ‘JamMan’) as rhythm, bass, percussion, melody lines, etc. are built up to create a finished work.
There is, of course, a danger in this method – the risk is that the artist can become too absorbed in the process, and simply produce music that is little more than self-indulgent noodling. Even the wonderful Phil Keaggy has occasionally had moments on his ‘looping’ projects where the songs surrendered to the technique. Thankfully, Cummins has avoided that pitfall. While Cummins has technique to spare – and obviously owes a great debt to Keaggy, who is like the Obie-wan to his Luke Skywalker – his style of improvisation carries a sense of melody and structure through each song, even though some of the tracks rely heavily on catchy riffs, as opposed to traditional ‘A,B,A’ structured songwriting. 

“Givin’ Thanks” starts off the album with a quick riff against a pattering percussion and fast harmony lines tripping off the Taylor. It’s a short bit of a song that will have you thinking you put a Phil Keaggy album into your CD player by mistake. There’s gentleness about many of the songs here – the guitar fingering is light and dexterous, and many of the tunes conjure up an afternoon in the fields, an occasional light Celtic air, or even a suggestion of Middle-Eastern music, as in “Passage.” Songs like “Window Shopping in Fort Langley,” “Slow Dance,” “Fresh Bread,” “We All See the Rainbow,” and “Ocean,” all evoke a mood, and tend to stay with you, while delights like “Minor Problem” serve as tasty treats with clever fretwork and funky grooves.

Wind Mill is certainly an impressive and enjoyable work, especially for those who play guitar (or aspire to it) and for fans of Phil Keaggy’s instrumental work. Richard Cummins has done an amazing thing: he’s stepped into Keaggy’s kitchen and cooked up a fine musical meal using his own recipe book. For those interested in this genre of instrumental music, I heartily recommend Richard Cummins’ Wind Mill.

By Bert Saraco



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