Donald Cumming Out Calls Only Washington Square Records
Donald Cumming is the former frontman of the Virgins. This is his solo debut, forged in the midst of a breakup, a move, and the disbanding of the Virgins. More importantly though, it’s the sound of one of the greatest cities in the world. I feel like I can hear New York City all over this Modern Pop record with influences from alt. country and folk to the world renowned NYC nightlife. Out Calls Only easily recalls eighties Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, as well as early Bruce Springsteen, without out overtly sounding like them.
It’s hard to pick favorites here as each song is fairly unique. The flowing seven minute plus “Scarecrow” is favorite of mine though. While you initially hear it as a Pop tinged acoustic-ish tune, it evolves into a fascinating piece whose second half is a sort of sprawling mix of worldbeat jam. Just when you think it might lose you, it pulls you back into the fold for the songs final moments with a pointed return to its humble beginnings.
“Sometimes Sweet Susan” has a rollicking flavor that reminds me of a boardwalk bar band with its loose mix of piano, thin guitars, and sax all over the top of a simple and steady rhythm. Another highlight for me is the acoustic intimacy of “Total Darkness.” It sounds like a lost Springsteen home demo both lyrically and musically and that can never be a bad comparison! “Shadow Tears” cloudy eighties Pop feel is very cool as well. The muddled sounding mix and Cumming’s semi-croon come together screaming for a video filmed in a dark, rainy alley as Cumming stands singing under a streetlight in a trench coat. This is one of my favorite songs vocally as well as the vocals are gentle and soulful but also commanding.
Throwback artists are cool these days. For me, that’s not so cool. Every once in a while though an artist will cross my desk and make me believe in the classics all over again. Donald Cumming is one of those guys and Out Calls Only is the rarest kind of gem.