Wednesday, June 29, 2011

David Bromberg - Use Me


A lot of hip-hop albums these days are made with multiple producers, each producing one or two tracks. I believe some country albums are also done this way. I’m old school, so this bothers me. An album, in my view, is supposed to have a single point of view, and this is achieved by having an artist and producer working together as a team for the length of the album. What then am I to make of the new album from David Bromberg? There is an over all concept to this album: it is Bromberg’s musical wish list of who he would like to work with. So Bromberg’s guitar and vocals are the constants, but each track has a different guest artist who also provided the other musicians and produced. Most of these guests also wrote their song specifically for this album; the others chose the song they wanted Bromberg to cover with them. Only Levon Helm contributed two songs, and they are completely different from one another. And the collaborators came from the worlds of country, blues, folk, old school R&B, funk, jam band, and pop. So what does this all add up to? A stylistically diverse album that can stand with David Bromberg’s best.

You see, even in the old days, David Bromberg was, by choice, a musical chameleon. His work was based on the blues, but he could rock, and he was always equally adept on acoustic or electric guitar. He eventually would record a wonderful album of Irish folk. So the mix of styles makes sense here, where it might not for anyone else. Also, the guest artists here have chosen or written songs that they feel Bromberg would sound good on. So Linda Ronstadt, for example, brings a Brook Benton tune, It’s Just a Matter of Time, but it’s arranged for just acoustic guitar and stand-up bass, with a chorus of female vocals. Los Lobos, with The Long Goodbye, stretch Bromberg with a Mexican waltz, but he is more than up to it. A slow blues with Keb Mo makes all the sense in the world, as does a jug-band tune with Levon Helm. Bromberg gets funky with Dr John, but also with widespread Panic. A slow R&B workout asks almost the same thing of a singer as a slow blues. John Hiatt doesn’t get enough credit for his talent at writing these kinds of songs, and Ride on Out a Ways is a fine example. Bromberg’s voice lacks the power it once had, but he has figured out ways to compensate, and convey as much emotion as he ever did. I am particularly impressed with the way he can still adjust his tone for the different styles of song heard here. Bromberg has also become a more subtle guitar player. Where he might once have broken out in an extended solo, now he knows that he can get his point across with just a splash of notes.

Use Me, then, is an album that Bromberg might have wanted to make at the peak of his career, but he was on a major label then, and they never would have allowed it. I’m glad he found a way to do it now. Use Me has the most important element any great album needs. It sounds like all of the musicians are having a great time.

David Bromberg: Ride on Out a Ways

David Bromberg: It‘s Just a Matter of Time