What happened to David Bromberg?I learned about Bromberg after buying his next record, 1974’s “Wanted Dead of Alive.” One track was a live cover of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues.” I’d never heard a song sung with as much passion. From that moment, I was on what led to a mostly futile mission to purchase every David Bromberg album I could find. In the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s there were plenty of record stores but no internet. Well, this: “When I moved to Wilmington, I actually hadn’t been planning to start playing again,” Bromberg said, “but the mayor and I had lunch together a few times and he told me that my street always used to have live music and he’d really love to see live music in town again. I figured the only way I could help with that would be to start a couple of jam sessions. I did that and some very good musicians started to show up. I just really enjoyed playing with these guys and since I was enjoying it I decided, what the hell, I’ll give it a shot.” In 2007, Bromberg made a solo acoustic album, “Try Me One More Time,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Recording. [pullquote]When he moved to Wilmington and started making violins, I lost touch with him but I always remembered him. When he called, my manager said, ‘Some guy named David Bromberg called and wants to work with you,’ and I said, “yes, yes, yes!” – Keb Mo[/pullquote]Bromberg may have won over new fans, but the old ones remembered him, too. When he made his next album, 2009’s “Use Me,” he sought contributions, recommendations and even productions from a number of high-profile musicians, many of whom he had worked with in the past. “Luckily, I must not have been too much of a jerk,” Bromberg said. “It was wonderful and humbling.” The artists included Keb Mo, Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Dr. John, David Hilgado and Widespread Panic, which often performs the Bromberg song “Sharon.” Around that time, I happened to be interviewing Keb Mo in advance of a show at Lake Tahoe. “David Bromberg came and found me,” said Keb Mo, who goes by Kevin Moore offstage. “It’s funny because I had met him back in the day when I played with Papa John Creech. I met him and saw his band. It freaked me out because his band would all of a sudden just turn into four different bands. He had all these horn players who could play fiddle and guitar. They could play all those instruments and just morph into them. They could turn into a bluegrass band and the next minute they could turn into James Brown, then they were doing rock. “He was very kind when I met him. He said, ‘Look me up when you get to New York. I’m in the book.’ Back in the day, I would call him every now and then. When he moved to Wilmington and started making violins, I lost touch with him but I always remembered him. When he called, my manager said, ‘Some guy named David Bromberg called and wants to work with you,’ and I said, “yes, yes, yes!” Bromberg has since made two more albums, the latest being 2016’s “The Blues, The Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues.” Since his comeback, Bromberg has appeared regionally at Reno’s Hawkins Amphitheater and in Nevada City. On Saturday, performed for the first time at Lake Tahoe in the the Crystal Bay Casino. While he may play some of his early material, concertgoers should know Bromberg isn’t influenced by requests. “I don’t plan my sets,” he said. “I don’t have a set list and as I finish a tune I generally know exactly what I want to play next. But if people shout stuff at me, I get confused. So I prefer it if they don’t do that. It’s like I have a string. You know, go on and let me follow that string.” The modern day Bromberg says vocal lessons have helped him improve his singing. His guitar playing is solid, of course, but he is not apt to play frenzied solos. “I still enjoy listening to other people play fast. I can’t do it anymore,” Bromberg said. “My hands won’t work like that anymore. You know, when you quit playing for a while, it’ll tell.” Bromberg is on tour with a quintet: Mark Cosgrove, mandolin and guitar; John Kanusky, drums, Nate Growler, fiddle, and Suavek Zaniesienko on bass. “I still occasionally play with a big band and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “The big band is like a Rolls Royce or a Cadillac or a Duesenberg, — some great big wonderful vehicle and it gives you a great ride. The quintet is like a sports car. And it also gives you a great ride but a different one.” No mater the vehicle, Bromberg delivers with a rare talent that audiences and listeners are enjoying once again. “I was fine not using it,” Bromberg said. “I mean, I’m still surprised that I could walk away like that, but I could and I did. If I hadn’t moved to Wilmington and the mayor hadn’t said, ‘You know, I really wanted to hear live music downtown again’ — if that hadn’t happened — I might never have picked up a guitar again.”
— Tim ParsonsRelated story: David Bromberg Quintet stuns Lake Tahoe.