by Peter Holmes
27 April 1988 - Sydney Morning Herald
STEPHEN Cummings groans loudly. Not once, but twice. And then silence. "How would you explain it?" he asks quietly, and pauses. "I don't know how to explain it to myself. Unplanned. It's been ... I don't know the right words. I can't think. I can't think of how I'd describe it. A mixed career? I don't know, how would you describe it?"
Asking Cummings about how he is going to describe his music career to Curtis, his young child, he pauses often, collecting his thoughts and showing no intention of rushing into an answer. If an answer doesn't come, he waits until it does.
Cummings always comes across as a shy musician who enjoys his work, but leaves it at that. His appearance on Saturday Morning Live with Jono and Dano a few weeks ago revealed a man who, quite simply, did not want to be stuck in front of the camera answering questions about his similarities to Bryan Ferry
He is in Sydney to support his latest offering, an album of pure delight called Lovetown. With his third solo album Cummings has surpassed the jazzy, smooth quality of his first two - Senso and This Wonderful Life, - and replaced it with a simple outing consisting mainly of acoustic guitar, double bass, gorgeous harmonies and piano. Add a tad of sax, and some drum patterns, and you've got it.
It is Stephen Cummings' best album to date, and ironically one done on the cheap. With no major label to support him, Cummings went about gathering a few friends to play on his project. They did not turn out to be just any musicians, but a bunch of extremely competent innovators who were able to wrap themselves around Cummings' fresh ideas.
Stephen Hadley's bass-playing sees an instrument moving from the typical role of holding the rhythm section together to a wandering solo instrument in the same vein as lead guitar, but far more intriguing.
Guitarist Andrew Pendlebury left an indelible stamp on the Australian scene with his solo album Between The Horizon and the Dockyard and his handling of both electric and acoustic guitars provides a crystal clear backing to Hadley's free-forming.
Of the different sound Cummings says both the financial budget set for the record and his personal leanings saw Lovetown go the way it did.
As the budget was small and things were done over 10 days, Cummings found he had more involvement.
"The first record, Senso ... I didn't really have a whole lot of personal input into the record. The second record was on the way to this one, and now Lovetown has the most of me in it."
Stephen Cummings plays this Friday and Saturday at the Kardomah Cafe, Bayswater Road, Kings Cross.