Saying hello to a new Bromberg disc, goodbye to Kirk Rundstrom.
By Jim Caligiuri,
3:21PM, Fri. Feb. 23, 2007
In the Seventies, the one artist I saw perform more than any other was David Bromberg. At the time, I was living on Long Island, and since he was immensely popular on the East Coast, I saw him more times than I can remember.
The real attraction was the mighty band he had back then, full of fiddles and horns and mandolins. Along with masters like Andy Stein, Dick Fegy, and Peter Ecklund, he would play for what seemed like hours. They would cover an amazing range of music from traditional fiddle tunes to electric blues to deep folk songs to blaring rock & roll. It was always a high point when five fiddlers would line the front of the stage, Bromberg included, and run through a medley that would just about raise the place off the ground. After a Bromberg show, you'd be in a jumble, breathless and intoxicated beyond anything that you had consumed during the evening.
Sadly, in the fall of 1980, Bromberg dissolved his band and moved to Chicago where, four years later, he graduated from the Kenneth Warren School of Violin Making. Since then he’s concentrated on crafting violins and tours infrequently, mostly as a solo act.
Last year he visited Austin for the first time in decades. Currently the proprietor of a violin shop in Wilmington, Del., he’s just released his first album in 17 years, Try Me One More Time (Appleseed). While it’s the 61-year-old’s craggy voice, a guitar, and mostly old blues and traditional folk songs, at least he’s back on the horse and riding again.
It wouldn’t be the place I’d suggest as an introduction to him. With only one original (the title track), a likable cover of Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” and more familiar tunes from Robert Johnson, the Rev. Gary Davis, and Elizabeth Cotton, it’s a comfortable if slightly disappointing listen. It works as a tribute to his early days in the Sixties Greenwich Village folk scene, but there’s only the occasional spark of what made him attractive so many years ago.
On a sad note, Kirk Rundstrom of Split Lip Rayfield passed away yesterday from esophageal cancer in Wichita, Kan., at the age of 38. He’d been sick for some time, so this wasn’t unexpected, but saddening nonetheless. SLR had developed quite a following here in Austin. After some epic SXSW shows in 2000, they regularly sold out the Continental Club, the last time being September 2006. Their Metallica-meets-Bill Monroe sound was unique, and Rundstrom was a major part of it as guitarist and songwriter. Startlingly ferocious on stage, he was also marvelously kind-hearted off it.