A BIG ROAD WITH SIDETRACKS & DETOURS for David Bromberg Band
by Norman Warwick
David Bromberg very quickly emerged as the new wonder-kid on the block with his 1971 self-titled Columbia Records debut. The disc’s compelling blend of traditional and original material, virtuosic musicianship and iconic cover art trumpeted the arrival of a new artist possessed of audacious and uncompromising vision. This was authentic roots music, even as that term was only just being minted.
Bromberg would make four albums in total for Columbia and five for Fantasy Records, and through associations with artists like Bob Dylan, Jerry Jeff Walker, (the obituary of whom sadly, but gloriously, marked our 250th edition of Sidetracks & Detours recently) John Hartford, George Harrison, the Grateful Dead, Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt, Bromberg’s own reputation, repertoire and following grew exponentially.
Nevertheless, although he has assembled a group of excellent musicians in his touring band the incessant demands of life on the road finally brought not only the band’s performances to an end but also effectively to Bromberg´s recording careerin the early nineteen eighties.
There was a twenty-two year drought that only ended in 2006 with the release of the Grammy-nominated solo album, Try Me One More Time. Gradually tour dates were added and band members assembled as David, in 2011, followed up Try Me with Use Me. Typically this was another unorthodox Brombergian offering, partnering him with some of the most celebrated names in music – Linda Ronstadt, Vince Gill, Los Lobos, Dr John, Keb’ Mo, John Hiatt, Levon Helm (left) and others – whom David asked to either write or choose songs and then produce him doing them.
Two more albums emerged from 2013 to 2017, Only Slightly Mad and gorgeously titled The Blues the Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues. These two albums were produced by three-time Grammy winner Larry Campbell and recorded at Levon Helm’s Barn.
Only Slightly Mad was a return to to David’s eclectic ‘kitchen sink’ musical philosophy, while with The Whole Blues, David upheld Texas fiddler Johnny Gimbel’s claim that: “There are only two songs – the Star-Spangled Banner and the Blues.” The band skipped over the ‘Banner’ and headed straight for the blues, winning the 2017 Downbeat Critic’s Poll for Best Blues Album.
Since then David’s band settled into its current line-up. Mark Cosgrove plays guitar and mandolin and also supplies some vocals and Nate Grower also offers vocals and play fiddle, mandolin and guitar, whilst Josh Kanusky on drums also supplies occasional vocals. Newest member, Suavek Zaniesienko plays bass, and like his three colleagues also chips in with vocals. This nucleus has now performed hundreds of shows together, traversing thousands of miles, across the US & Canada to Europe, Japan and Australia. With the group having attained a high level of musical telepathy, they entered the studio in last year carrying a slightly different approach to record making.
The new album, Big Road, has critics and previewers predicting it will give Bromberg fans the most intimate portrait yet of David and the band, musically and visually.
Featuring twelve new tracks, five high definition performance videos and a mini documentary detailing the album’s creation, it will be released in three formats: traditional CD, a gatefold vinyl album and a CD/DVD combo pack. In an age that has somehow devalued and relegated recorded music to a digital stream for smart phones, Big Road returns the listener to the golden age of record making, when enjoying an album was a tactile, visual and auditory experience. Joining David’s core band are keyboardist extraordinaire Dan Walker on piano, organ and accordion, a stellar horn section of Bromberg regulars like Birch Johnson (trombone), Jon-Erik Kellso(trumpet), Matt Koza (tenor sax) and Bob Stewart (tuba) with Larry Campbell on mandolin and pedal steel.
David Bromberg´s Big Road will certainly follow Sidetracks & Detours, so hitch a lift and enjoy the ride !