Ultimately, Bromberg's blues best burnout
DALTON — More than a dozen years into his return to record-making, David Bromberg isn't going to let burnout sideline him again.
"I've taken charge," Bromberg told The Eagle during a Tuesday phone interview in advance of Sunday night's David Bromberg Quintet show at The Stationery Factory in Dalton.
The 73-year-old musician has the bona fides to do so, mind you. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bromberg rose to prominence in the Greenwich Village scene for his session and side work, studying under Reverend Gary Davis and collaborating with the likes of Bob Dylan, Carly Simon and Jerry Jeff Walker. His multi-instrumental, humorous mix of blues, folk and other genres drew its own acclaim. His self-titled 1972 debut album featured a song ("The Holdup") co-written with George Harrison, and his sophomore record, "Demon in Disguise," included popular tunes such as "Sharon" and Walker's "Mr. Bojangles." But by 1980, burnout led Bromberg to give up road and studio life. He had been on tour for about two years and was lacking creative inspiration.
"I didn't realize that I could say, 'No, I need some rest now,' or, 'No, I don't want to play that gig,'" Bromberg recalled. "I didn't realize that I can control these things."
Bromberg moved to Chicago and attended the Kenneth Warren & Son School of Violin Making (now the Chicago School of Violin Making). In 2002, he uprooted to Wilmington, Del., and helped start a violin sales and repair business, David Bromberg Fine Violins, which he still assists in running. Known for his skills on guitar, fiddle and mandolin, Bromberg studied violin making in order to identify different violins' creators.
"If you look inside and see a paper label that says 'Stradivarius,' the odds are very much against it ever having even been seen or touched by Stradivari," Bromberg said. "So, how do you know who made it? Well, you have to have seen an example by the same maker as the one you're now looking at and be able to recognize the outline, the choice of materials and the fine points of the construction to know where and when and sometimes by whom it was made."
During his multidecade absence from the fore of popular music, Bromberg didn't curtail his musical endeavors entirely. He still played the occasional show, and "Sideman Serenade" came out in 1989. But Bromberg didn't fully resurface until "Try Me One More Time," a 2007 album that earned him a best traditional folk album Grammy Award nomination. Before that, lunches with Wilmington's then-mayor, James M. Baker, spurred Bromberg's return to music. Baker told the musician that Bromberg's street once hosted live music.
"I figured the only thing I could do would be to start a couple of jam sessions," Bromberg said.
A slew of albums, including 2016's "The Blues, the Whole Blues, and Nothing But the Blues," ensued. Bromberg has also resumed regular live performances. (His current touring quintet consists of Mark Cosgrove, Nate Grower, Josh Kanusky and Suavek Zaniesienko.) Along the way, he has picked up an unofficial gig born from his musical journey: counselor.
"I kind of became the go-to guy to consult for somebody who's starting to feel burnt out or that they're working too much," Bromberg said.
He recalled one conversation he had with an artist a few years ago. She was feeling exhausted, but was afraid to tell her manager and agent for fear of being dropped.
"I had to persuade her that that wouldn't happen because they can't eat," he said. "It just takes a while to realize that you really do have control if you want it, if you take it."
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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