01 March 2019 (released)
02 February 2019
The breadth of David Bromberg’s talents is just amazing. His different forms include bluegrass, blues, folk, jazz, country and western, and rock and roll and add to that a humorous lyrical take and you have a musician who is head and shoulders above the norm.
I’d heard more about him that I had heard his music and I am delighted that this retrospective has showed me just how talented he is.
It’s probably a mark of how highly he is considered when you look at the musicians he has played with including Bob Dylan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jerry Garcia, George Harrison, Joan Baez, The Eagles, even The Beastie Boys and Link Wray!
This album covers the period when he was signed to Columbia/CBS – 1972 – 1975 – and takes tracks off all the four albums he made in that time.
He has a remarkable voice. Not really a singer, his vocal style is almost a sort of New York spoken word with a slightly sing-song quirkiness but the gentle passion and humour come over beautifully.
The opening number ‘Sharon’ almost epitomises the knowing side of his nature, singing about a freakshow midway dancer, the song has a rock & roll groove to it, supplied by three members of the Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann & Keith Godchaux), but it is his guitar and vocal that really grabs you.
One of my personal favourites is his live take on ‘Mr Bojangles’ where he keeps to the niceness of the original but, with his vocal style, gives the song back its original feeling before the likes of Dean Martin got hold of it. Just a simple guitar but gentle and sweet. There is a spoken section where he explains who Bojangles was and how the song came about and you finally get a handle of the sad and joyous life of a New Orleans street dancer. Probably the best version ever of this classic.
‘The Holdup’ was written with George Harrison and this version features overdubbed slide guitar by the great man himself.
There really isn’t a weak number on the whole set but ‘Sammy’s Song’ stands out from the rest: another spoken number with a superb harmonica supplied by an old friend Bob Dylan. The story is that of a young man being introduced to the world of sex through a disfigured Mexican prostitute. It is gentle, melancholic but still very natural and really shows the skill of a master songwriter.
If you like your Bluegrass then ‘Yankee’s Revenge’ is dynamite, showing off Bloomberg’s fiddle skills and capturing the perfect folk feel.
This really has opened my eyes to a major artist that I hadn’t really sought out before and I will be making it a mission to seek out more of his music – in the meantime, this is a great introduction.