On Sept. 24th, the godfather of Americana meets one of the genre’s top producers with the release of David Bromberg’s new album, ‘Only Slightly Mad.’ Produced by multiple Grammy-winner Larry Campbell and out on Appleseed Recordings, the album is a crowning moment in a career that has included collaborations with Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Jerry Garcia.
Rolling Stone premiered the first single, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” calling it “a blues wailer” – http://rol.st/16DIxPq
As its title suggests, ‘Only Slightly Mad’ is shot through with an unhinged intensity that is unmistakably Bromberg, whose freewheeling interpretation of blues, folk, country, bluegrass and gospel has inspired praise from luminaries like Bonnie Raitt and Vince Gill. Staking his overdue claim as a roots-music icon, he belts out originals and covers with equal urgency, pushing his husky voice to its limits.
He and his band’s take on Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” serves as the album’s opening statement, from its greasy slide-guitar intro forward: this is Americana at its most powerful, eccentric and subversive. His arrangement of “Keep On Drinking (Good Liquor Gonna Carry Me Down)” is blues to dance to, with its gutbucket acoustic-guitar theme doubled on bass and filled out with tremolo and harmonica. Bromberg reworks “Drivin’ Wheel” like ‘After the Gold Rush’-era Neil Young might have, with his frenzied ad lib lending the David Wiffen standard a new desperation. “The Strongest Man Alive” is a Bromberg-penned English drinking song from which the album’s title was culled; his a-cappella arrangement here underscores his playful vulnerability. On “World of Fools,” an original, Bromberg both calls out and comforts someone who really screwed something up, with a horn section seemingly driving home the folly of the mistake. Throughout the album, instrumental segues let Bromberg showcase the fretwork that led country singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker to call him “the reason man created stringed instruments.”
As a testament to his role in American roots music, Bromberg and his band recorded ‘Only Slightly Mad’ at Levon Helm’s barn in Woodstock, New York, with help from a few of the late Helm’s players. Campbell, a multi-instrumentalist best known for performing in Dylan’s band as well as with Helm, expertly guided Bromberg’s wide-ranging vision for the album, with engineering by The Barn staffer Justin Guip.
Throughout the ’70s, Bromberg recorded numerous albums (including four for Columbia) and toured internationally. Burned out, he disappeared in the ’80s, becoming a full-time violin builder, collector and appraiser. Then, after 22 years away from recording and playing, he reemerged in 2007 with the Grammy-nominated album ‘Try Me One More Time.’ On 2011’s ‘Use Me,’ he collaborated with artists including Helm, Los Lobos, Widespread Panic, Vince Gill and Keb’ Mo’, a project captured in the 2012 documentary “David Bromberg: Unsung Treasure.” For the past decade, he’s lived in Wilmington, Delaware, where he serves as a cultural ambassador. ‘Only Slightly Mad’ culminates the comeback of the artist Dr. John calls “an American music icon.”