Known by different genres to varying people, David Bromberg is eclectic even within his own albums. Spanning from folk to pop to deep rhythm and blues, Bromberg seems to encompass Americana.
Born in Philadelphia, Penn., Bromberg was raised in Tarrytown, N.Y. before attending Columbia University in the ‘60s. By the early ‘70s he was releasing his own albums and his rendition of “Mr. Bojangles” earned him airplay on progressive rock radio.
He became a great session guitarist and bandleader, but left the rock and roll lifestyle in 1980 to study violin-making in Chicago. Bromberg now lives in Wilmington, Del., where he and his wife own a violin shop called David Bromberg’s Fine Violins
After 40 plus years in music, David Bromberg is no stranger to playing in the Roaring Fork Valley. He’s played almost everywhere. Earlier this year he headlined The Wheeler Opera House and then strolled over to The Belly Up where he accompanied his good friend Lyle Lovett. This Saturday, June 2, Bromberg will be appearing at PAC3 in Carbondale for his first time.
In 2007, Bromberg ended a 17-year recording hiatus by making an acoustic blues album that gained him a Grammy nomination. For the recent follow up, he wanted to create an album like he’s never done before. Actually, he wanted to make an album in a way he believes no one has ever done before.
He gives most credit for the idea to his wife; she suggested he make an album out of songs other musicians would write for him. Starting with Lyle Lovett and John Prine, Bromberg asked a number of musicians to each create a song for him, generally people with whom he already had some kind of relationship.
After enlisting a small army, which includes Levon Helm, Linda Ronstadt, John Hiatt, Dr. John, Los Lobos and Widespread Panic, Bromberg spent the good part of a year traveling and recording songs someone else prepared for him, while at the same time allowing this person to produce the track.
“I asked these people basically to use me — what do you want to do with me? That was the whole trick: I’m here for you to use as you please. What kind of music can we make?” Bromberg told Uncommon Music, on why he decided to name the project “Use Me.”
He says it was a leap of faith to put yourself totally in somebody else’s hands, but he chose people he felt could handle the undertaking and they all knew how to take the reins. Bromberg says this album miraculously came out more cohesive than it should have and he is very proud of it.
“I didn’t feel as though anything was a stretch,” he says.
Unfortunately he will not be playing every track from it at his PAC3 show and, in fact, has never had a set list or planned a show. He’s gotten burned-out on music before, and has a better time if he can judge the audience and choose the next song based on their reaction to the last.
Most of all, Bromberg loves what he calls listening-rooms. He wants to entertain at places where people come to listen and he doesn’t like clubs much anymore, because people aren’t there to pay as much attention and he doesn’t like walking out at three in the morning.
“In order not to get burned out, I do gigs where I know I’m gonna enjoy ‘em. If it doesn’t look like it’s gonna be fun, then I don’t want to do ‘em, and I won’t. Get somebody else,” says Bromberg.
Bromberg is not known for his singing abilities, especially as an older gentlemen, but his voice is honest and heartfelt as he hollers, shouts or belts out a tune in his durable baritone.
“It’s very difficult to explain to people what it is I do, because I do whatever it is I like,” says Bromberg. “If you ask people what the best show they ever saw was — and this is very immodest of me to say it — but my name comes up a lot.”
John Zelazny knows Mr. Bojangles and he’ll dance for you in worn out shoes. He appreciates your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .