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Interview: Bob Brozman

January 2001

Bob Brozman Resonatin'


Bob Brozman is the opposite of his peer, Ry Cooder, whose nickname in the music industry is Mr. Grumpy. If Brozman was ever pretentious, he's gotten rid of it in 20 years traveling the world while tracking the blues, and his reasons for traveling with his faithful National steel companions on his quest are simple.

They're a shiny metal bodied resonator-driven instrument with acoustic mechanical amplification from the 1920s and '30s, and they enable me to have a much wider dynamic range from soft to loud than either acoustic or an electric guitar can give. I don't need any effects of any kind, I have an entire drum kit in my hands with bass and melody all going at once. So it's a very personal experience for expressing myself."

The way you hear Bob Brozman play blues, he must have a range of emotions inside that any ancient poet would a gut trying to express in words, and he's doing it in musical languages from cultures most people have never even heard of. Last year, Bob released two albums playing the same guitar for both recordings with unbelievably different results - Ocean Blues with musical soul mate Djeli Moussa, and Jin Jin with the Okinawa sanshin player Takashi Hirayasu. Listening to both recordings you realize they're profound musical conversations that transcend the ordinary. Bob's curiosity led him to search for a universal reason as to how it all happens; successfully and mercifully for the printed page he's no slouch with words.

"Just in terms of communication you are using muscle movement to make sonic vibration to cause electrical impulses in people's heads to generate a few chemicals into their brains to give them a good feeling." Bob continued with characteristic humility, "for me that's totally a privilege and a mystery and a great place you can journey for decades."

Brozman isn't speaking metaphorically; he's been on the road 20 years now after realizing the blues were way deeper than what he was hearing in the USA where he spent his first 20 years.

"Basically, I just found the blues in a lot of different cultures at the frontiers of colonialism around the world. So I'm still a blues musician but I play the blues from a lot of different countries."

Two years after his initial visit to Australia, Bob's back working with the Ten Cent Shooters for a series of concerts through the south-west of the state that finish at the Fly By Night in Fremantle this Sunday, February 4. He likes the way they work together, including the fact there's no egos involved and he can play the music that turned him on as a small kid.

"The Ten Cent Shooters are doing this type of early American blues and pre-blues music better than most Americans who are trying to do it. You know I think Australians suffer from this automatic thinking that if it's American it's better but that's certainly not the case, and I want to say that Australia proportionately has more good blues-based musicians than America does. Every Australian musician that I have met so far has not only been a good musician but has been a nice guy as well. As Jeff Lang put it: if you're not, because the population is so small, everybody finds out very quickly."

Bob Brozman - King of the National Guitar

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