David Bromberg : Use Me

Singer, songwriter and guitarist David Bromberg has drawn from many influences over his long and distinguished musical career, from the blues of his mentor Rev. Gary Davis, who taught him in the ‘60s in New York City, to the evolving folk and rock sounds of the Beatles and Grateful Dead. Although he crossed paths with – and played alongside of – luminaries such as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, Bromberg nurtured and maintained his own earnest style of blues and folk guitar.  While withdrew from recording studio projects in some respects in the 1980s, he never strayed away from music entirely – he went to school to learn how to make violins and opened his own store where he sold and repaired them.

Use Me is a testament to the ebb and flow of creative forces in David Bromberg’s musical career. A compilation of songs from other musicians (most tracks are written and produced by someone other than Bromberg), it isn’t exactly a “duet” album since he does almost all of the singing. In fact, he was inspired to create the album after John Hiatt invited him down to his Nashville studio and wrote him a track to record.  Genre-spanning musicians from Vince Gill to Los Lobos all gladly lent songs, backing performances, and the occasional vocal to the album.

Highlights include “Tongue,” the only composition actually written by Bromberg, which showcases his playful blues style and lyrical humor throughout.  “Ride On Out a Ways” is strongly flavored by its author, John Hiatt, and Tim O’Brien’s “Blue Is Fallin’” is delivered with particular conviction. Other notables are the politically tinged “Diggin’ In The Deep Blue Sea,” produced by Keb’ Mo with its message about the dangers of global petroleum dependence; “Old Neighborhood,” written and performed by Widespread Panic but sung entirely by Bromberg in a style that is both light and groovy; and “Use Me,” written by the late Bill Withers and produced The Butcher Brothers.

There are a ton of talented musicians that joined the fray for Use Me, forming a great introduction to David Bromberg. That said, anybody seeking out stellar performances by the songwriters’ stellar backers will likely be disappointed.  The beauty of the album is the shared influences between Bromberg and everybody else that added an ingredient to his creative chili and made “Use Me” come together.  On the other hand, open minded music fans will be rewarded.

Use Me is out now on Appleseed Recordings.