leaving many disappointed hopeful attendees on the wait list. David Bromberg’s return to Landmark on Main Street on Saturday Nov 16, was a captivating night of music.
The first show in Landmark’s “Roots Rock” series was opened by a promising duo, Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman (@MelodiousWalker). Their sound was, to borrow from Donny and Marie, a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. Groopman is an exceptionally talented mandolin player, as well as guitarist, and Walker can hold her own on the guitar as well. Their harmonies were tight and well done, and I enjoyed the retro way they used a unidirectional mike, and acoustic instruments.
They played several songs from their new CD, We Made it Home, including the title track, a rollicking bluegrass number. Standouts were Walker’s beautiful MerleFest-winning song, “Black Grace,” “Sweet Sunny South,” which sounded like it could have come straight off of the soundtrack from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou,” and my personal favorite, the rocking environmental-themed “Gold Rush Woman.” That song in particular showcased Walker’s great voice and allowed her to demonstrate some fantastic vocal slides. Groopman and Walker’s music is available to download online for free, or pay what you like. Keep an eye on these two – they are headed up. They closed their set with “Little Blue Caboose,” the obligatory train song required of all folk musicians.
After an intermission and enthusiastic introduction by WFUV’s John Platt, David Bromberg took the stage, along with his 4-piece band featuring Nate Grower on fiddle, Mark Cosgrove on guitar, mandolin and vocals, Josh Kanusky on drums, and Butch Amiot on bass and vocals. All of Bromberg’s band members are superb musicians in their own right; together they were magic.
Bromberg has just released a new CD, Only Slightly Mad, and his very first song was the album’s first as well, a soulful version of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” highlighted by Bromberg’s signature slide guitar and a great fiddle solo by Grower.
It would be impossible to try to list songs or easily describe this show. Suffice it to say that Bromberg can (and does) play every type of music, aside from rap and disco (although I have no doubt he could work those in if he chose). His offerings ran the gamut from country, bluegrass, rock and roll, blues, and folk. His musical skill, on both guitar (acoustic and electric) and mandolin, is otherworldly. Yet he takes as much joy in listening to the members of his own band as the audience does in listening to him. He was literally beaming at times during spectacular solos by Grower (on fiddle) or Cosgrove (on guitar or mandolin). This is one of the many things that makes a Bromberg performance memorable – he clearly loves to make music and he appreciates making music with other talented performers and appreciating their work as well.
The highlight of the show for me was the Bromberg staple, “Sharon,” in which he literally makes his guitar talk and make noises I’ve rarely heard anyone get out of a guitar. Plus, the song is a great showcase for Bromberg’s vocal abilities and his knack for telling a story. The audience loved a rollicking 3-guitar version of “Turkey in the Straw,” and the many astounding fiddle solos by Grower. Bromberg did a solo number, as did Cosgrove, and towards the end of the show the whole band was joined by opening act, Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman for a few numbers.
Bromberg was brought back out for two encores by overjoyed listeners. The final encore was an unplugged acoustic number where all the musicians lined up at the very front edge of the stage and sang to the crowd.
“They don’t pay me to play,” said Bromberg. “They just pay me to get here.”
The show, longer than most, lasted well into the night and left the audience wanting still more.
Next in Landmark’s Roots Rock series is Ruthie Foster & Eric Bibb on Saturday, February 8, 2014. For information, visit www.landmarkonmainstreet.org.
Image credit: Steven Sandick