Sizzling and smoldering blues with his peerless band
Thursday, September 17, 7:00 pm
St. Johnsbury Academy
1000 Main St.
St. Johnsbury, VT
Tickets: $48, $38, $28, $15. Students free
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For Americana music godfather, David Bromberg, it all began with the blues. Bromberg’s incredible journey spans five-and-a-half decades, and includes – but is not limited to – his adventures with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jerry Garcia, and music and life lessons from seminal blues guitarist Reverend Gary Davis, who claimed the young Bromberg as a son.
A musician’s musician, Bromberg’s mastery of several stringed instruments (guitar, fiddle, Dobro, mandolin), and multiple styles is legendary, leading Dr. John to declare him an American icon. Bromberg’s many other collaborations constitute a Who’s Who in music: Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jorma Kaukonen, Tom Paxton, Richie Havens, Carly Simon, Sha Na Na, John Prine, Gordon Lightfoot, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, Ringo Starr, The Eagles, Commander Cody, Country Joe McDonald, Leon Redbone and many others.
Bromberg’s guitar work remains a marvel; amped electric lead – both slide and fretted – and delicately powerful acoustic fingerpicking propel these songs with the same force that made him the go-to guy for acts ranging from the Eagles to Link Wray to Phoebe Snow. This is a man who can go full-on Chicago gutbucket with “You Don’t Have to Go” (a Bromberg original), then slay with the jazz inflections of Ray Charles’ “A Fool for You,” rendered here intimately solo.
Although Bromberg points out he’s not the same guitarist he was before his two decades away from performing and recording. “I play differently,” he says. “I can’t play as fast, but playing slower gives me more time to think about what I’m doing.”
“He’s always able to plug into the emotion of a song,” fellow multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell says. “He’s incredibly inventive as a player. Sometimes restrictions can be good.”
Bromberg’s vocals cover a broad range: impassioned, vibrato-laden testifying; pew-jumping soul shouts; soft, confident, crooning; and, of course, his peerless raconteur chops (particularly in “You Been A Good Old Wagon”).
“When I first started,” Bromberg says, “singing was something I did between guitar solos. But during the period I did so little performing, I took some voice lessons, and now, I know more what I’m doing. I love singing now. Love it.”
Campbell was impressed at Bromberg’s newfound vocal chops, too. “He is a better vocalist than ever,” he says. “He’s strong, and present. None of the songs (on his new blues album) took more than three takes. And he was able to take the old folk song ‘900 Miles’ [a “railroad song” made famous by Odetta and Woody Guthrie], and turn it into an electric blues that’s a real high point.”
Although he remains the proprietor of the beloved David Bromberg Fine Violins in Wilmington, Delaware – “I love my shop,” he says – Bromberg makes time to tour with his quintet. As ever, he brings his characteristic devotional intensity to the music, invigorating his surprise third act with the same passion he felt as a teen, spinning those blues 78s, just before the road called.