Hands down one of the most engrossing records that I came across last year was the Flightless debut from Australian songwriter Grace Cummings. Her scarred and furrowed songs were only rendered more so by her sonorous voice. She has the kind of stop you in your tracks delivery that would leave most listeners agape until the last note left the air. She’s followed the album up with an entry to the Looking Glass series for Mexican Summer that’s serves as a proper epilogue to the record and naturally that had me thinking that Grace might have a gem in her collection that she looks to. Shoulda thought of this when I was writing up the album, but of course Cummings is a natural fit for the storyteller power of Buffy Sainte-Marie. She recounts the impact of the songwriter’s essential ’64 debut on her own works.
As seems fitting the record came to Grace through the intangible magic of the airwaves, and she recalls, “I heard a song played on the radio and I thought this has gotta be Buffy Sainte Marie but this is fuckin’ outta control! Went searching for the album. I dunno, I had only really experienced Sainte-Marie or heard about her in her full on psychedelic days, and what she gets up to now, but I don’t know if heaps of people focus on this early trad. stuff.”
Which begs the question, has this seeped into Cummings’ own writing over the years? To which she readily admits, “Absolutely. This album is far out. It’s so theatrical. Something that comes close to a song from Brecht’s Mother Courage — crying over a slaughtered child or something. A bit dramatic, I know. But that’s what makes it so fuckin’ cool. Being able to get so much out of almost nothing at all. A voice and a guitar, there’s inspiration there to last a lifetime.”
Quite the same could be said of Grace’s own work. It builds on the same simple, but powerful elements in Sainte-Marie’s catalog, never failing to stun or bring a crowd to hushed silence. Thankfully her debut remains a staple of used shops and easily obtainable if you look in the right places. As for Grace’s own works, the LP is harder to track down these days (hoping for a reissue of the scant 500pc run someday) but her new single is out here.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.