David Bromberg touring his record we made at Levon Helm Studios in 2013 “Only Slightly Mad.” Great show.

David Bromberg plays Capitol Theatre
Godfather of Americana is touring in support of Only Slightly Mad

Article published on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015
Photo courtesy of DAVID BROMBERG
Multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter David Bromberg performs Jan. 15 at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater.

CLEARWATER – Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter David Bromberg is set to bring his musical cohorts to the Tampa Bay area. The David Bromberg Band will perform Thursday, Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m., at Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St.

Not one to rest on his laurels or choose to ride off into the sunset after decades in the business, David Bromberg – considered by some the godfather of Americana – released his new album “Only Slightly Mad” in September 2013.

It is Bromberg’s second Appleseed Recordings studio release since 2007’s “Try Me One More Time.” That album came after a 17-year hiatus from recording new music. It earned Bromberg a 2008 Grammy Award nomination in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album.

Bromberg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1945. He was raised in Tarrytown, New York.

“As a kid, I listened to rock ’n’ roll and whatever else was on the radio,” said Bromberg in a biographical sketch provided by Mod Media. “I discovered Pete Seeger and The Weavers and, through them, Reverend Gary Davis. I then discovered Big Bill Broonzy, who led me to Muddy Waters and the Chicago blues. This was more or less the same time I discovered Flatt and Scruggs, which led to Bill Monroe and Doc Watson.”

According to the biography, Bromberg began studying guitar at age 13 and eventually enrolled in Columbia University as a musicology major.

The Greenwich Village folk scene in the mid-’60s drew him to the downtown clubs and coffeehouses, where he could watch and learn from the best performers, including primary sources such as his inspiration and teacher, the Reverend Gary Davis.

Bromberg’s sensitive and versatile approach to guitar-playing earned him jobs playing the Village “basket houses” for tips, the occasional paying gig, and employment as a backing musician for Tom Paxton, Jerry Jeff Walker and Rosalie Sorrels, among others. He became a first-call, “hired gun” guitarist for recording sessions, ultimately playing on hundreds of records by artists including Bob Dylan, Link Wray, The Eagles, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, and Carly Simon.

Still, the spotlight eluded Bromberg until a fateful day in 1970.

On Wednesday, Aug. 26 of that year, Bromberg took the stage as an accompanist for American folk singer-songwriter Rosalie Sorrels at the Isle of Wight Festival. Following her set, Native American/Mexican American rock group Redbone was schedule to perform. They did not appear on stage, however, and Bromberg unexpectedly performed a solo set in front of an estimated 600,000 concertgoers.

The impromptu performance earned Bromberg a solo deal with Columbia Records, for whom he went on to record four albums. His eponymous 1971 debut included “The Holdup,” a songwriting collaboration with former Beatle George Harrison, who also played slide guitar on the track. Bromberg also met the Grateful Dead and wound up with four of their members playing on his next two albums.

As his career progressed, Bromberg’s material – based in the folk and blues idioms – continually expanded with each new album to encompass bluegrass, ragtime, country and ethnic music. Meanwhile, his touring band grew apace. By the mid-’70s, the David Bromberg Big Band included horn players, a violinist, and several multi-instrumentalists, including Bromberg himself.

Despite sold-out concerts and a string of acclaimed albums on the Fantasy label, Bromberg found himself exhausted by the logistics of the music business.

“I decided to change the direction of my life,” he said.

Bromberg dissolved his band in 1980, and he and his artist/musician wife, Nancy Josephson, moved from Northern California to Chicago, where he attended the Kenneth Warren School of Violin Making. Though he still toured periodically, the recordings slowed to a trickle and then stopped following 1989’s “Sideman Serenade.”

After a few too many Chicago winters, the Brombergs relocated in 2002 to Wilmington,

Delaware. They became part of the city’s artist-in-residence program and Bromberg established David Bromberg Fine Violins, a retail store and repair shop for high quality instruments.

It was Bromberg’s frequent participation in the city’s weekly jam sessions that eventually helped rekindle his desire to make music again. A little prompting from fellow musicians such as Chris Hillman (The Byrds, Desert Rose Band, Flying Burrito Brothers) and bluegrass wizard Herb Pedersen didn’t hurt, either.

The Grammy-nominated “Try Me One More Time” heralded Bromberg’s 2007 solo return to the studio. He continued his musical revitalization, playing shows on his own, with the David Bromberg Quartet, and reunions of the David Bromberg Big Band.

In 2009, spurred by a suggestion from John Hiatt that he come to Hiatt’s Nashville studio to “mess around,” Bromberg came up with the idea for “Use Me” – an album featuring Bromberg with Hiatt and other friends such as Levon Helm, Los Lobos, Tim O’Brien, Vince Gill, Widespread Panic, Dr. John, Keb’ Mo’ and Linda Ronstadt. Each guest artist either wrote or selected a song and then produced Bromberg’s interpretation of their suggested tune, thereby fulfilling the Bromberg’s request to “Use Me.”

In 2013, content with the balance of both his violin business and performing career, Bromberg was ready to record again with his live band.

Enlisting old friend Larry Campbell and engineer Justin Guip, Bromberg and his group entered Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York, in March 2013. Bromberg recruited some of Helm’s former recording and touring musicians for added instrumentation. The David Bromberg Band emerged 12 days later with “Only Slightly Mad,” a return to his genre-bending albums of the ’70s and ’80s.

Bromberg fans who attend the Jan. 15 concert at the Capitol Theatre will find blues, bluegrass, gospel, folk, Irish fiddle tunes, pop and English drinking songs happily coexisting as Bromberg performs selections from the new album as well as songs from his decades-long career.

For newcomers, “Only Slightly Mad” offers an introduction to a performer whose range and musical depth have delighted devoted audiences for more than 40 years.

The David Bromberg Band features Bromberg on guitar, vocals, mandolin and fiddle; Mark Cosgrove on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Robert ‘Butch’ Amoit on bass and vocals; Nate Grower on fiddle, guitar, mandolin and vocals; and Josh Kanusky on drums and vocals.

Zach Caruso will open the show.

Tickets start at $35. Call 791-7400 or visit www.atthecap.com.

Article published on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015

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