After spending a couple of years looking back on his long career with a reworking of his classics with the Dreams in America album and tour, Luka Bloom begins book two of his musical history with the aptly titled This New Morning.
The Kildare native takes the traditions of Irish musical storytelling to heart on This New Morning, using the folk medium to comment on the issues of our time and in the process, leave an archive for the next generation.
“A Seed Was Sown” was inspired by Queen Elizabeth’s historic visit to Ireland last year in which she bowed before a monument honoring fallen Irish heroes. “She lowered her head down/and held the pose/my tears flowed freely/God only knows/she remembered our losses/she remembered her own/and in that moment/a seed was sown,” he sings atop sparse acoustic accompaniment.
“Across the Breeze” decries the law passed this year that bans the cutting of turf in Ireland. “I see the turf smoke rising/carrying our stories and songs,” he sings.
“I've come to the conclusion that there are people in the 'environmental movement' who love nature but don't like people,” Bloom says during our weekend chat.
“There is a case for controlling turf cutting in Ireland, but the manner of it is classic bureaucratic bullying with no regard for people's lives.”
As always, Bloom’s intricate guitar playing is the perfect duet partner that tailors its phrasing as the tune requires it.
“You Survive” is constructed on casual, meandering finger picks while a lonesome pedal steel guitar moans in the background.
Hand claps encourage the flamenco stylings of “The Race Runs Me,” a song inspired by Sonia O’Sullivan, one of Ireland’s greatest athletes. Kudos to Rita Connolly, who adds a husky female foil as Bloom sings, “Breathing, running, and breathing/deep inside the race/there is no me.”
Co-produced by Bloom and his long time friend, studio maestro Brian Masterson, this album is full of beautiful melodies, thought provoking lyrics and stunning performances
“Last year was such an amazing year of touring, the highlight of which was my second of two visits to Australia,” Bloom recalls.
“This was to sing with HH the Dalai Lama for three weeks in June. This was a truly inspiring experience. Making a record is a great undertaking. More than ever these days, it is beginning to feel like an art form from the last century. But I am a believer.”
We should be all glad that he is a believer! Though Luka has drawn some inspiration from the headlines of these turbulent times, he throws plenty of fun in the mix.
With the help of Mairtin O'Connor’s playful accordion and Dirk Powell’s mandolin, “The Ride” is a playful romp through the Irish countryside.
“Summer evenings on the road/the cool breeze in my hair/poetry in motion/on two wheels around Kildare,” he sings.
It is a countrified cousin to “The Acoustic Motorbike,” a more rap-tinged tune from his second album.
When asked what advice your man on the bike today would have for the Acoustic Motorbike fellow, Bloom’s deadpan reply is, “I’d tell that fella to stay on the bike so he could keep the pounds off throughout the years.”
Bloom has always been a solitary performer in Ireland. He rarely travels with a band on tour and, curiously, his folk classics are rarely covered by other artists and buskers.
On This New Morning, Bloom lets his friends into the creative process with marvelous results.
“It was a cold February, but we were fired up,” he says. “Over the next few weeks, in came musicians, all amazing -- Steve Cooney, Robbie Harris, Mairtin O'Connor, Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh, Donal Lunny and Conor Byrne to name but a few.
“Then we spent a day in the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri headquarters in Monkstown where we recorded with an orchestra, scored by Joe Csibi. I decided to invite some of my favorite singers to sing with me on these songs.
“And so the incredible Rita Connolly, Eimear Quinn, Glen Hansard and Iarla O'Lionard all came by to have a cup of tea, a wee chat and then to bowl us over with the atmosphere created by songs shared.”
Many of the songs have a band feel, and I asked Bloom what a band dynamic does to the songwriting process and playing.
“The writing really flowed last year, and when I got to November I knew the songs were strong, and I knew they were bigger than me,” he said.
“So I decided to ask some people I love to join me on the record, and yes it was all very magical.”
Interestingly, many of the same side musicians used for this disc are favored by Bloom’s older brother, Christy Moore. I ask Bloom, who changed his name to escape that shadow, if there is anything behind this common use of musicians after years of forging one’s own identity.
He dismisses the observation outright.
“It is not an observation that ever crossed my mind. Except that we love some of the same people,” he said.
Bloom is promoting his record independently, as he has done for years, choosing partners in each territory to distribute music as needed.
“I am really in love with this record, and am patiently waiting to find the right home for it in the U.S. because that is very important to me,” he says.
There are no plans currently to tour the U.S., but that shouldn’t stop you from jumping online to www.lukabloom.com so that you have these fantastic songs memorized by the time he does come around.
Here, watch Luka Bloom performing 'A Seed was Sown' on RTE: