Friday, January 20, 2012

David Bromberg: Back with Bang

We interrupt our plans for a year in review for an album in review. David Bromberg, a grizzled veteran who had dropped off the music radar for a career making violins is back with a new album that demonstrates why he was a much sought after session player (guitar, mandolin, fiddles) and is the best mix of rock, blues, R & B and roots music that I have heard in years.

His new album,"Use Me" employed a most unusual concept. He called up his friends and colleagues and asked them to write a song for him (or pick a song) and then produce the recording session for him. Perhaps because he had played with so many of them over the years (Rolling Stone Encyclopedia credits him with 90 albums), they climbed on the bandstand with him. The result is a mix of traditional sounding ballads (John Hiatt on Ride On Out A Ways), political protests (Digging in the Deep Blue Sea with Keb Mo'), country swing (Lookout Moutain Girl with Vince Gill) and the basic blues (Use Me produced by the Butcher Brothers, Phil and Joe Nicolo).

Then there's Levon Helm, Dr. John, Los Lobos and Linda Ronstadt, plus others. But I hope you have the point by now. Instead of Central Casting, he called the Rock and Hall of Fame. The result in terms of music is certainly at the level. It's also a trip down memory lane for him and his partners. In the liner notes he refers to how long he has known Keb Mo.
"In the Jurassic Age, before I stopped performing for 22 years, Kevin, like John Hiatt appeared on shows with me. I am very grateful that I wasn't a jerk to either of them or they never would have worked with me on this CD."

My thanks again to Bob Edwards who took us listeners on a tour of Bromberg's violin store and workshop in Wilmington, Delaware. In addition to describing what was in his safe (the really expensive violins), we heard from artisans and about which kind of horsehair from South America they imported to make bows. The story of how the album got created over almost a year was just as fascinating. The connection with Los Lobos came because both Davids (Bromberg and Hidalgo) had done CDs for children at a company called Rabbit Ears.

My only encounter with Mr. Bromberg came at a concert in 1976 at George Washington University in support of his album, "How Late'll Ya Play 'Til." A friend had gotten front row seats and after one particularly rousing song, he looked down at me and said something to the effect: "What's wrong? Don't you like the music? Why aren't you clapping?"

I shrugged while turning shades of crimson behind the footlights and attempted to join in. As my family and a few friends know, not only can I not carry a tune in a bucket, my sense of rhythm is always a half beat slow. Hence I try to avoid clapping in public. The show did go on and I became a fan even after being skewered by his rapier wit. Back in the day that wit produced such laugh out loud fun songs as Sloppy Drunk and Will Not Be Your Fool as well as great takes on Blues standards. He's mellowed since then but on "Use Me," he's uncorked some fine vintage music.


  1. Oh, joy! I have been a Bromberg fan since he started coming to Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix to do concerts back in the '70's. I'll have to buy this album AND dig out my collection of his albums from "the good old days". Thanks for this post, Frank!

  2. Great news. I'm glad to learn of this album. We'll round up this on. Good to see you back at the pop stand too.