Live New York City 1982

David Bromberg Quartet

Appleseed Recordings, 2008

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


David Bromberg has had a long and storied musical career. He performed at the historic Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970 and released a series of respected rock-blues albums for the Columbia label during that decade. He gradually began to explore the country and bluegrass idioms as time passed and began playing the violin himself. He retired from the rigors of the road in the early 1980’s and he and his wife set up shop in Wilmington, Delaware,where David sells and repairs violins.

In 2007 he released the solo album, Try Me One More Time. This album was nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Traditional Folk Recording Category and prompted Bromberg to begin touring again on a limited basis. It also prompted him to re-release Live New York City 1982, which had only been available on a limited basis.

Live New York City 1982 is first and foremost a bluegrass album. The David Bromberg Quartet consists of Bromberg (vocals, guitar, fiddle, and mandolin), Jeff Wisor (mandolin, harmony vocals), Butch Amiot (bass, harmony vocals) and Gene Johnson (mandolin, fiddle, harmony vocals). Classic bluegrass is usually all stringed instruments and the David Bromberg Quartet fits the bill. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The vocals are more than competent, but it is the instrumental interplay that is spectacular. The opening ten-minute medley gives each group member the opportunity to shine and fit their sound together. Bromberg is at home on both the mandolin and fiddle and he melds with the other members of the group crating an ebb and flow of sound. Whether it is one mandolin and two fiddles or two fiddles and one mandolin playing together, the sound is full and harmonious.

The first part of the album is strictly bluegrass. The Bob Dylan tune “Wallflower” features some spectacular fiddle playing by Bromberg. Dylan originally wrote this song from a country perspective, but here Bromberg give it a while new feel. “Ookpit Waltz” is a beautiful instrumental song. It evokes emotions without the benefit of any lyrics. A second medley consisting of “Sally Gooden/Old Joe Clark/Wheel Hoss” features dueling mandolins with a fiddle in support. Somewhere bluegrass founder Bill Monroe is smiling.

There are two songs that wander off in a blues direction. “Midnight Hour Blues” is stripped down to its basics, with Bromberg accompanying himself. This performance harks back to his releases of thirty years ago. “The Creeper’s Blues” has a fuller sound and is a sort of country-blues hybrid.

There are thirteen songs contained on this album but one of the most memorable is “Fairfax County.” I would call this six-minute opus more of a folk song as it tells a wistful tale of love, loss and death. I can’t get Phil Ochs’ “The Highwayman” out of my mind when I listen to this track.

In the final analysis, Live New York 1982 is a feast of sound and song, mostly within a bluegrass setting. It is nice to have David Bromberg back, especially with an album that is such an excellent and enjoyable listen.

Rating: B+

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© 2009 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Appleseed Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.