David Bromberg Band—Big Road

2020, David Bromberg Band/Red House Records/Compass Records


Bromberg hasn’t changed. His vocal colors are still outside the lines and at 74 years old he is still a force of nature and kick-ass truth. Big Road starts out with the big band rocking, and vocals roaring and falsetto whooping on the title track. He sounds essentially the same as he did decades ago. How to describe the voice, the style? Attitude over intonation, a bluesy approach to melody, quavering vibrato on held notes, idiosyncratic and forceful. This is in contrast to the tight horn laden arrangements and impeccable guitar work. Rollicking rock and roll leads to gospel, blues, country and trad, sounding like it all slept in the same crib (as it should!). The glory of the sound comes from the fact that this is basically Bromberg’s touring band. They are consummate musicians, whose solos are like the various voices of a single beast serving the eclectic needs of the songs. They play big on Huddie Ledbetter’s “Take This Hammer,” yet you can still feel the way it sounded pounding out of Ledbetter’s guitar. “Lovin’ of the Game” memorably covered by Judy Collins, brings me back to the days of free-form radio, when they both had their share of spins. The band steps away from their instruments for the call and response of the a cappella church song “Standing in the Need of Prayer.” “Just Because You Didn’t Answer,” is a perfect country weeper, and a vehicle for some very tasty solos. As Bromberg explains in the liner notes, “People think I’m trying to be funny when I say that rests are the best notes I play, but the rest is an important musical note, and I play a few in my solo part.” It’s Bromberg being Bromberg with the help of the like-minded…what could be better? The variety of styles, traditional, classic and original songs, excellent arrangements and musicianship and Bromberg’s unique presence make this an album to celebrate, deserving whatever accolades and notoriety can be bestowed on such music. —Michael Devlin

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