Three long-awaited words: David Bromberg's back!
Roots music fans will rejoice in the release of "Try Me One More Time," the first new CD in 17 years by guitarist/vocalist David Bromberg, a master practitioner of folk, blues, bluegrass and other musical genres. This new recording is undiluted David: one man, one acoustic guitar, and a repertoire of mostly traditional material performed with the intimate, assured touch of a musician who has nothing to prove.
Originally a "must-have" session man for everyone from Bob Dylan to Dion and subsequently a hard-touring bandleader and recording artist with an enthusiastic following, Bromberg gradually phased himself out of the continual record-tour-record cycle starting in 1980. "I got burned out," he reflects. "And I didn't want to be one of those musicians who ends up `phoning it in.' Music was too important to me to treat it that way."
So he switched his focus from performing to studying, moving to Chicago in 1980 to learn violin-making. Based in the Windy City until 2002, when he moved to Delaware to open a violin shop, Bromberg has continued to tour periodically, but has mostly stayed away from recording studios, with 1990's "Sideman Serenade" his last album until now.
On "Try Me One More Time," Bromberg harkens back to the acoustic folk and blues music of his early days on the mid-'60s Greenwich Village folk scene, a period when he guided the blind gospel-blues singer Reverend Gary Davis to concerts and churches in exchange for guitar lessons. Bromberg performs two of "the Rev's" compositions on his new CD - "I Belong to the Band" and "Trying to Get Home" - as well as songs written by Robert Johnson, Elizabeth Cotton, Tommy Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, sometime Bromberg employer Bob Dylan ("It Takes a Lot to Laugh . . ."), and songs from the traditional realm, including two exquisitely rendered instrumentals ("Buck Dancer's Choice," "Hey Bub"). The title track is Bromberg's first recording of a song he wrote more than 30 years ago.
In liner notes as conversational as his distinctive, low-key vocals, Bromberg maintains that this CD is the first record he's made where he "wasn't trying to impress anybody . . . I'm just doing the tunes." Nonetheless, the outcome can't fail to delight listeners who appreciate an understated virtuoso playing and singing the music he loves.
Though the esteemed guitarist hasn't released an album since 1990--leaving his career as a recording and touring musician to study violinmaking--David Bromberg's feel for folk and blues tradition and his encyclopedic command of it remain undiminished. This is a back-to-basics affair, just vocals and guitar, as Bromberg puts his own stamp on material from seminal influences such as the Rev. Gary Davis ("I Belong to the Band," "Trying to Get Home") and Bob Dylan ("It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry"), one of the many recording artists who employed Bromberg as a sideman. Though the tricky time shifts of "Buck Dancer's Choice" show his dexterity, there isn't much showoff guitar here (and no guitar at all on the a cappella "Moonshiner" and "Lonesome Roving Wolves"). He's singing better than ever, from the falsetto on Robert Johnson's "Kind Hearted Blues" to the expressiveness of his own title track, as he sounds more than ever like one of the masters he began by trying to emulate. Accompanying the CD are notes from Bromberg that provide extensive annotation on the selection of material. --Don McLeese