This, 2020’s first outstanding blues album, opens with a blast of Stax-style horns announcing that something special is at hand. Indeed, as the song unfolds with some tasty Clayton Ivy keyboards underpinning the maelstrom, Albert Cummings’ gritty, measured vocal, complemented by a powerhouse female duo, signals a fresh take on the Sam & Dave classic, “Hold On”—more bluesy and more deliberate until Cummings cuts loose with a screaming, sizzling Strat solo that elevates the whole enterprise to a higher plane. Thus the template for Believe: five originals interspersed among diamonds from Willie Dixon, Van Morrison, and Leon Russell along with the above-mentioned Isaac Hayes-Dave Porter monument. Always keeping it bluesy, Cummings summons the tender gospel heart of Van’s “Crazy Love” with stirring support from Ivy’s keyboards and backup singers Kimberlie Helton and Trinecia Butler, whereas his own stomping “Call Me Crazy” needs only the searing, howling Cummings guitar to articulate revenge over a deceitful woman’s manipulations. Throughout, the imaginative vitality of Cummings’ guitar solos adds revelatory textures to the narratives, as his assured vocals, engaging and impassioned at every turn, deepen the emotions he explores here. Believe it.