- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Watch the guitar player in the opening act for David Bromberg Saturday at the Ram’s Head in Annapolis. It’ll be Mr. Bromberg.

“I’ll be performing with my quartet and as part of my very own opening act, Angel Band,” says Mr. Bromberg, 59.

The story of Angel Band, Mr. Bromberg’s latest project, has its origins in the 1980s — before Candice O’Byrne, who sings in the group, was even born.

After a successful career as a recording artist in the 1970s — he has recorded some 15 albums under his own name and appeared as a backing musician on about 100 others — Mr. Bromberg gave up the rigors of international touring to study violin making in the 1980s. Now, he says, he can look back and see what prompted his decision. It was burnout.

In the ensuing 20 years, he performed part time as a soloist and occasionally reunited his big band to re-create his hard-to-define rootsy-bluesy sound. He preferred, though, to spend time with his family and his newfound passion, appraising and dealing in violins — an instrument he says he plays “very badly.”

About 2½ years ago, he moved from Chicago to Wilmington, Del., with his wife, Nancy Josephson, who formerly worked as a vocalist with Mr. Bromberg, Arlo Guthrie and Peter Rowan as well as the Chicago Gospel Choir. When Mr. Bromberg set up his violin shop in downtown Wilmington, he agreed with city officials to try to revive live music in the city’s Market Street district.

He injected some of his musical enthusiasm into jam sessions at a coffee house called 4W5 within walking distance of his shop.

At a jam session one night, he heard the mother-daughter team of Terry and Candice O’Byrne sing, accompanied by other members of their family. He coaxed his wife into coming to listen. Both ended up joining the band.

“It’s already a little scary,” he says, “the way it’s moving.” The band is finishing its first CD.

“I don’t sing in Angel Band,” Mr. Bromberg deadpans. “People pay extra for that.” He does, however, play guitar, mandolin and Dobro.

“I started my career as an accompanist, and I miss it, and I enjoy doing it,” he says. “It’s a real treat for me.”

The jam sessions are still going strong in the Wilmington coffee shop, which seats maybe 100 patrons. Mr. Bromberg says Tuesdays are devoted to bluegrass and Thursdays to Chicago-style blues sessions.

“If I’m in town,” he says, you might find him there “either night.”

• • •

Folks might be haunted by the commercial music of David Buskin and Robin Batteau and not realize it. For years, the two songwriters made their living writing jingles.

Mr. Buskin, for example, was responsible for the music behind commercials for Coca-Cola, Goodyear, Burger King, Jif and Amtrak, among others. Mr. Batteau still dabbles in jingles; he recently wrote a new theme for Budweiser with collaborators Joey Levine and Jeff Southworth. However, Mr. Buskin says, “There’s been a tremendous drop-off in [jingles] because a lot of people are just using old songs.

“So you go from being passe to being lovably retro,” Mr. Buskin says. “I guess that’s a good description of Robin and me.”

Mr. Buskin plays keyboards and guitar, and Mr. Batteau plays violin, mandolin and guitar. The two have been known to perform jingles in a medley in concert. They’ll be appearing tomorrow at the Birchmere. Percussionist Marshal Rosenberg will join them.

The pair started recording together in 1977 in the Boston-based band Pierce Arrow. They made three albums as a duo, and each has made two recordings without the other — Mr. Buskin worked solo, and Mr. Batteau performed in a duo called Compton and Batteau and also paired with his brother David to record as Batteaux.

Buskin and Batteau reunited occasionally at the Birchmere for the annual World Folk Music Association benefit concerts. Mr. Buskin currently performs most often with his trio, Modern Man. Mr. Batteau last year co-produced the “Thanks & Giving All Year Long” children’s benefit record for Marlo Thomas and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

But the magic of Buskin and Batteau is being rekindled. Mr. Buskin says the two recorded a new song in mid-April, and “based on the reaction … will probably record again.”

“One new song. That’s not bad for 20 years; come on,” Mr. Buskin cracks. “We don’t want to peak too soon.”

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