David Bromberg Quartet’s Live, New York City 1982

cover art for Live 1982I remember David Bromberg from years ago. He wrote a song with George Harrison, he played guitar for Bob Dylan, the Eagles, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson and the Grateful Dead. In memory he was one of those flash acoustic guitar players, but a pretty lousy singer. In the 30 years since I last gave him a listen, he’s been retired from recording, and building violins. He operates David Bromberg’s Fine Violins, a retail store and repair shop for fine instruments in Wilmington, Delaware.

The past couple of years have seen David making a comeback of sorts. Playing weekly jam sessions, and encouraged by people like Chris Hillman, he formed Angel Band with his wife and two other female vocalists. He was essentially their accompanist. He is an extraordinary guitarist. The first track of this 1982 live recording takes the traditional tune “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” at breakneck speed. And neither he nor his bandmates miss a note. It sets the pace for the rest of the album.

His vocals are nowhere near as bad as I thought they were back in the day. He’s been offering this live album in a limited edition available only at his concerts, but now Appleseed Recordings has made it generally available. And I’m glad they did. After the 10-minute blowing session on “Deal” the group (Gene Johnson on mandolin and fiddle, “Butch” Amiot on bass and Jeff Wisor on fiddle and mandolin) takes Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower” for quick trot around the yard. Apparently Dylan wrote this one at Bromberg’s apartment. “Stay All Night” is also played rather faster than you might think the title deserves but they slow down for “Ookpik Waltz.” I remember “Ookpik” very well; he was kind af a furry thingy designed by the Inuit and based on the Snowy Owl. I never saw him dance, is all.

After a rendition of Ralph McTell’s “When I Was A Cowboy” with the group harmonizing, the band moves on to some blues and then more bluegrass before ending with a gospel tune, “Working On A Building.” This live album has been remastered and sounds darn good. There’s some fine picking and vocalizing, and the songs are fun to listen to. It could serve as a workshop for up-and-coming pickers. Slow it down and try to play along, then gradually speed it up … if you can keep up, you’ll be much improved by the end.

I’m looking forward to some new recordings from David Bromberg, and I’m sorry I never paid that much attention to him before!

(Appleseed, 2008)

David Kidney

David Kidney was born in the Marine Hospital on Staten Island in the middle of the last century, when the millenium seemed a very long way off. His family soon moved to Canada, because the air was fresher. He has written songs and stories, played guitar, painted, sculpted, and coached soccer and baseball. He edits and publishes the Rylander, the Ry Cooder Quarterly, which has subscribers around the world. He says life in the Great White North is grand. He lives in Dundas in the province of Ontario, with his wife.

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