Sideman Serenade

David Bromberg

Sideman Serenade

David Bromberg’s 1989 Rounder album Sideman Serenade is divided into sides: a “City” side (with blues, R&B, and even a dash of cosmopolitan samba) and a “Country” side (featuring folk and country). The sound is full and focused, and the playing is wonderfully lenient. Bromberg reaches new plateaus as a vocalist on his Ray Charles–style original “Testify.” The album is full of the author’s trademarks. “Mobile Lil the Dancing Witch” is an absurdity-tinged R&B song as only Bromberg could do it, while the huffy and puffy folk tune “Long Tall Mama” displays a rustic feel that has been the guitarist’s stock-in-trade since the '70s. Few guitarists are as comfortable with open space and silences, which makes the crawling rendition of “Midnight Hour Blues” one of the most compelling performances here. For all of his infamous goofiness, Bromberg has an uncommonly gentle touch, one that alights in “Watch Baby Fall” and “Come All You Fair and Tender Maidens.” The centerpiece, however, is a version of Doc Pomus and Mort Shulman’s “Save the Last Dance,” in which astute listeners will recognize the backup vocals (and guitar playing) of Jackson Browne.

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