It’s appropriate that David Bromberg will be performing just before headliner Hot Tuna for the opening night of the Great South Bay Music Festival on July 15th. Like Hot Tuna, Bromberg was a favorite for years of not only Long Island music fans, but also fans around the world. Unlike Hot Tuna, though, Bromberg took a long sabbatical from recording and performing. He has come back in a big way, however. Since 2002, his touring schedule has picked up steam, after a long hiatus, and he regularly tours as part of either his own quartet or his own big band. In 2007, he released Try Me One More Time (Appleseed), his first album in 18 years. In 2008, there was Live New York City 1982 (Appleseed) and in July he will have a new studio album. The album, to be titled Use Me, will be released by Appleseed and will include songs written for Bromberg and produced by the likes of Dr. John, Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Los Lobos, Linda Ronstadt, Widespread Panic, Keb Mo, Vince Gill and others.
Talking to Bromberg is a great experience. Having learned from such seminal blues figures as the Reverend Gary Davis as a teenager, he is a natural bridge between some of the legends of the blues revival of the 1960s. He also still possesses a dry sense of humor that is so much a part of the appeal of his live performances. He began our talk by discussing why he took a twenty-year absence from regular live touring. “I just burnt out,” he began. “ I wasn’t practicing, jamming or writing. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who drags himself up onstage and does a bitter imitation of what he used to be because he doesn’t know what else to do. So I decided I had to find another way to live my life and I did.”
What Bromberg did was get involved in the identification of violins, although he is most known as primarily a guitarist. “It’s a fascinating instrument. There’s not as much mystery to the guitar.”
Having tired of the cold winters of Chicago, Bromberg headed back to the east coast. After getting involved with jam sessions in his new home in Delaware, Bromberg slowly worked his way back into performing regularly.
Looking back on his beginnings and what he wanted to do he said, “I always wanted to play everything. There was a part of me that always wanted to be Bob Dylan.” Bromberg worked extensively with Dylan and appears on such albums as Self Portrait, New Morning and Bob Dylan. He even produced some sessions for Dylan in the 90s that have never been released. “They were never bootlegged because I took the masters home every night,” he stated. He added that someday they will be released. He also worked with George Harrison, co-writing the song “The Holdup.”
After so many years in music, Bromberg talked about where he feels he is at as a musician today. “There are certain things that I used to be able to play on the guitar that are more difficult for me now than they used to be, but then there are other things that I do better on the guitar. The other thing I do better is I sing better.”