Long-time purveyors of what’s now called “roots music” have much to offer fans this summer. Old-timers like David Bromberg, Jerry Burgan, Elvin Bishop, and John York have new releases that show their feet are both firmly planted in the folk, blues, country, folk-rock, and country-rock past, but are still improving, growing, and finding fresh approaches—even after all these years.
David Bromberg - Use Me (Appleseed Recordings)
David Bromberg returned to recording in 2007 after a 22-year hiatus so he could take the time to add violin virtuosity to his arsenal of skills. Then, last year the musician’s musician asked a number of his friends to write and produce songs they thought would suit his unique voice and talent. Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Los Lobos, Vince Gill, Dr. John and Linda Ronstadt were among those who responded. As a result, Use Me is a rich panorama of musical styles ranging from the poignant (“Ride Out There Aways”) to spooky social commentary (“Digging in the Deep Blue Sea”) to more of Bromberg's trademark humor (“Tongue” & “Don’t You Make Me Mad”). Use Me may be Bromberg's finest album ever, period.
John York with Kim Fowley - West Coast Revelation (Global Recording Artists)
During the ‘60s, John York cut his teeth as part of the touring bands for Johnny Rivers and the Mamas and Papas before joining The Byrds during their country-rock era. In recent years, he’s been working with Barry McGuire and issuing solo albums, but West Coast Revelation is something special. The acoustic-driven songs are first-rate on their own, but interspersed between each musical selection are short bits of conversation between York and the legendary producer Kim Fowley (of Hollywood Argyles, Napoleon XIV, & The Runaways. Fowley also co-wrote songs with Skip Battin for latter-day Byrds releases.)
The interviews focus on York’s past, the musical scene in the ‘60s, what rock means to us all, and insights into the songs on the disc. For example, York’s song “Rock and Roll is Another Word for Freedom” inspired an insightful discussion on the many meanings of freedom. In short, this offering is both a historical artifact and an evening of memorable music and talk.
Elvin Bishop - Raising Hell Revue (Delta Groove)
In the mid-'60s, Elvin Bishop was one of the “3 B's of Blues” along with band mates Paul Butterfield and fellow guitarist Mike Bloomfield. The seminal Paul Butterfield Blues Band, in fact, paved the way for all the white blues bands to follow in its wake. During the ‘70s, Bishop had FM airplay with songs like “Travelin’ Shoes” and even one AM standard with “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”