Niagara Gazette

May 16, 2013

JENNINGS: David Bromberg back in the saddle, in town Friday

By Thom Jennings ngedit@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — After a 22-year sabbatical from performing, the mayor of the town in Delaware where folk artist David Bromberg resides told Bromberg that there used to be lots of live music performed on the street where his violin shop is located and he wished it would return.

Bromberg, who is appearing at Seneca Niagara’s Bear’s Den on Friday, did his part by starting a series of jam sessions that attracted many world class musicians. The result was that it revitalized the area and Bromberg’s interest in performing again.

In the 1970s Bromberg had a successful solo career and appeared on albums with a virtual who’s who in folk music, playing guitar, dobro and mandolin on albums by Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Willie Nelson, and Gordon Lightfoot.

“They call it Americana now, but back then it didn’t have a label,” Bromberg noted during a recent phone interview from his violin shop in Delaware.

“Folk music was music that was played with no chance of money changing hands. Americana is music made to sell patterned after folk music. Some people say I invented Americana.”

It was 2002 when Bromberg returned to performing, and in 2007 he released the Grammy nominated album “Try Me One More Time.” A few years later, fate would take Bromberg in a new direction for his 2011 album entitled “Use Me.”

“Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt were performing in town and they asked me to come down with my guitar. I thought they wanted me to perform with them but they wanted me to perform my songs. It was flattering.”

After the performances Hiatt asked Bromberg to visit his studio in Nashville and Bromberg thought it would be a good idea to ask Hiatt to give him a song to record. Bromberg asked other artists to do the same and they obliged. For “Use Me” Bromberg traveled all over the country for the recording sessions and collaborations with Hiatt, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, Tim O’Brien, Vince Gill, Widespread Panic, Dr. John, Keb’ Mo’ and the late Levon Helm.

“Levon couldn’t sing or speak at the time because he had just had surgery on his vocal chords. Larry Campbell, who led Levon’s band, produced the session. I wound up having two songs with Levon on the album and I am proud of that.”

After talking about his last album, I couldn’t resist asking Bromberg what it was like to write a song with George Harrison and to play guitar with Jerry Garcia. Bromberg first recalled how he and Harrison came to write “The Holdup.”

“George and I were invited to a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of a mutual friend. The daughter owned a nylon string guitar, not an expensive one, but it was the only guitar there. George and I are both guitar junkies so we handed the guitar back and forth and before we knew it, we had written a song. We hadn’t intended to, but we did.”

He also recalled his first meeting with Jerry Garcia and solved a mystery involving a YouTube video of Bromberg and Garcia.

“We met at Woodstock. There is a video of Jerry Garcia and I on YouTube playing with a woman identified as Joan Baez’s sister Mimi Fariña. It wasn’t her, it was Rosalie Sorrels. We were doing that backstage. When it started, raining Jerry Garcia and I were in a teepee, I don’t know where it came from but during the whole rainstorm Jerry Garcia and I sat in the teepee playing guitar. It was fun. That was when I first got to know him.”

Bromberg also has ties to a younger guitarist, Little Big Town’s Johnny Duke.

“When I met him, he was sixteen years old. His older brother went to school with my daughter and told me I should listen to him. He was good. I approached him and offered to work with him. He learned everything I could do. He is a tremendous guitarist and a tremendous human.”

Johhny Duke plays a solo on one of the tracks on Bromberg’s new album that is scheduled to be released in September.

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night & Day.