Grace Cummings – Storm Queen: Album Review

Grace Cummings is a Folk singer from Melbourne, and with her sophomore album Storm Queen she will slay you with her vocal power. Freakish deep tones of Helen Shapiro combined with the angry passion of Odetta. She has a softer side and can rise up into high soprano in a flash. Joni Mitchell’s presence of course is lurking deep in the wellspring of inspiration over all these songs.

Heaven has all that hell-fire and passion and the singer sounds a little ragged and possessed. There is no God/ There is no King/ Yet you hear/ A singing/ Ave Maria.

Always New Days Always soothes all that down. Softer pastoral Folk with ancient Renaissance tones on the high voice and a little grit in the lower register.

Grace CummingsCummings played drums for a high-school bands which covered the likes of AC-DC and Jimi Hendrix. As a new solo performer, she made an immediate impression with a version of Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. The drummer steps out and fronts with an astonishing voice, like a Marvin Gaye or a James Brown from older times.   

Up In Flames is her take on the apocalyptic sounds from the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, particularly Masters of War.

 It’s winter now and I feel like Robert Frost. Celebrated Pulitzer Prize winning American Poet with a distinct Folk bent. Jack Frost is also one of the alter-egos of Dylan. Cummings strums a simple acoustic guitar as she sings of consuming fires. The fires of Notre Dame and the burning forests of New South Wales date the song to 2019. The shepherds have led their sheep astray and it’s all going up in flames speaks directly to present times. The song shares the urgency and prescience of that seminal album made sixty years ago.

Freak is largely a tender tribute to people who don’t easily fit in and most likely is about the songwriter. Her Folk sound has feet firmly planted in traditional Celtic Irish. Violins harmonize sweetly and connect to Country Americana of the Appalachians.

Here is the Rose is a highlight and a tour-de-force of her astonishing vocal prowess. Nobody by my side/ I could cry, I could cry/ I could go and get as high as a kite. Sudden swoops of low to high voice are effortless and tastefully nuanced. Then drops down to the guttural throat sounds. The Joni influence to the fore.

Raglan begins with the guitar coda off Neil Young’s My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue). And a reference to Highway 61. This Raglan is a street in Melbourne and it is also an old Irish Folk song On Raglan Street written by Patrick Kavanagh. The long persecution of the Irish by the English also involved incarcerating them in Victoria and Tasmania and that haunting persists in Australia.

Storm Queen is ominous and foreboding. Townes Van Zandt took a hold of my hand/ So I wouldn’t feel alone. A smokey baritone bass from Harry Cooper sounds like a long-distance truck disappearing across a plain. Amplifies the rawness in the singer’s voice. The song a spiritual quest of life and death as a continuum over a vast land. Guitars add dissonant Jazz phrases along with the saxophone.

Fly a Kite ends the album soaring. I am flying just like the eagle. The high piercing sound which could be an unearthly spectral voice is a theremin. The downbeat acoustic guitar strum adds a little flavour of Van Morrison’s Ballerina.

The day is nearer to darkness/ I would lie my head on my pillow/ And dream of flying my kite again.

Grace Cummings delivers an extraordinary vocal performance on an album with a majestic and magical presence. I sense that on stage she would unleash and that would be an experience.

Rev Orange Peel