Saturday, October 25, 2014

David Bromberg – Archive Recordings Volume One; David Bromberg in Canada

Archive Recordings Volume One

After racking up some impressive credentials as an A-list sideman on stage and recordings for the likes of Bob Dylan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Tom Paxton, Rosalie Sorrels and countless others, David Bromberg first emerged as a solo artist and then a band leader right about the same time I started spending so much of my time in coffee houses listening to folk music. I recall seeing David play at the Back Door Coffee House in Montreal circa 1970 or ’71 and picking up his self-titled debut LP not too much later.

Through the ‘70s and into the ‘80s, David was one of the major touring and recording artists on the folk scene (and beyond) both as a solo artist and band leader with one of the most eclectic repertoires of the day. Eventually, he tired of touring and became a student of violin making and a musical instrument dealer while only rarely performing and recording. In 2007, he returned with his first new album in 17 years – Try Me One More Time (Appleseed) which I rated 4-stars in my Montreal Gazette review – and began to tour again.

With Archive Recordings Volume One, David has also begun to release some of the hundreds of live, radio show and demo recordings he’s kept from that prolific decade of 1969 to ’79. Half of the 12 tracks here are solo performances and half feature sidemen or versions of the David Bromberg Band. Some of them are alternate versions of songs from his albums of the time, a few, I think, he’s never before released. Almost all feature David’s often brilliant acoustic guitar playing.

The album begins with a solo version of “Cannonball” (AKA “Cannonball Blues” or “Solid Gone”) recorded in 1975 on FolkScene, the legendary Los Angeles radio show hosted by my friends Roz and (the late) Howard Larmon. It’s an absolute delight to hear David’s Watson-worthy flatpicking on the song.

Among the other solo highlights are his guitar arrangements of the fiddle tune “Salt Creek” and a five-tune medley that includes “Devil’s Dream”; and his wonderful arrangement of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” that’s paired with Luke Jordan’s “Church Bell Blues.” “Statesboro” is one of my favorite blues songs and David’s official version on Wanted Dead or Alive was always one of my favorite versions.

Among my favorite band tracks is the hilarious “Jelly Jaw Joe,” a raggy tune on which David goes off on one of his legendary and very witty tangents while the band seems to be having tons of fun. The song seems like the kind of thing Pink Anderson or Jesse Fuller might have written but I don’t recognize it – so I’m guessing it might be something David himself came up with in the old medicine show style.

Other favorites among the band tracks are Bessie Smith’s “Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair,” which features a great New Orleans-style horn arrangement, and a version of “Wheel Hoss,” the Bill Monroe tune, that has David and the always-incredible Andy Statman going crazy on twin mandolins while Peter Ecklund – who played trumpet on “‘Lectric Chair” and several other tracks – switches to guitar.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from David’s archives.

David Bromberg in Canada this coming week

David will be here in the area this coming week for some solo concerts on Thursday, October 30 at Hugh’s Room in Toronto; Friday, October 31 at the Neat Coffeeshop in Burnstown; Saturday, November 1 at Le Petit Campus in Montreal; and Sunday, November 2 at the Isabel in Kingston.

I haven’t seen David perform live in more than 30 years so I’m going to hightail it into Montreal to see the show there.

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--Mike Regenstreif

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