David Bromberg always strikes me as one of those artists you’ve heard a hundred times without realising you’ve even heard him…perhaps because his extensive talents as a multi-instrumentalist have seen him credited on hundreds of albums by hoards of famous acts from the early 1970s to pretty much the present day. Among them there are names like Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Tom Rush, Tom Paxton…Country music superstars like Willie Nelson…and even rock music royalty…performing on some of the solo recordings of former Beatles members. Even if you’ve less familiar with Bromberg’s own solo-ish output, The Player: A Retrospective is by no means a difficult listen.
The full on east meets west blues-funk epic of ‘Sharon’ kick starts the album, which after six minutes, rolls into ‘The Holdup’; a good fun, cowboy movie-styled “George Harrison” version of a song which actually bookends the record…”the Dead” version concludes the album. Of course, what comes in between these diverse takes is also pretty good.
There is ‘Yankee’s Revenge’, a toe-tapping medley which really showcases Bromberg’s abilities as an outstanding instrumentalist; this sits comfortably alongside numbers where his well-crafted narratives and cuttingly honest lyrics are at the fore, see ‘The Jokes on Me’ and ‘Sammy’s Song’:
“Somewhere in the south of Spain, Sammy, still sixteen, goes with his uncle for a ride
The sun is high…Sailing through the city, For to see the sights and talking sex
Sammy’s sitting tall, The sun is high
His uncle brings him to a brothel, Being big he buys a drink…Rum and coke, Don’t taste too bad
Having brought him to the brink, His uncle leaves him with his drink
Rum and coke, Don’t taste too bad”.
While folk, rock and country influences mingle throughout, blues is another key ingredient of this retrospective. As such, Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Statesboro Blues/Church Bell Blues’, (Bromberg original) ‘The Main Street Moan’ and the traditional ‘Dehlia’ are all fittingly brought to the table. However, it is perhaps Bromberg’s rendition of (former band mate) Jerry Jeff Walker’s ‘Mr Bojangles’ which takes the prize on this album’s track list. It is simple; one man and one guitar, performing to a live audience; it is both sensitive and powerful, being talked, rather than sung as he tells listener(s) about the ‘real’ Mr Bojangles, presenting an entirely new dimension to a well-known classic.
Christopher James Sheridan
Artist’s website: http://davidbromberg.net/
‘Mr Bojangles’ – live. David Bromberg is still performing it: