Luka Bloom is just wrapping up a tour behind his newest release Dreams in America. Because life is so busy on the road, he and I weren’t able to connect until this tour was over.
Bloom is one of the most gifted singer songwriters in Ireland today, with a confessional, passionate delivery that is a thrill to see live.
Armed with nothing more than a guitar, Bloom casts a spell on audiences with overpowering charisma. Though he has recorded these songs before, the bare bones approach is applied to each song from Dreams in America, re-imagines the tunes in the process.
Instead of revisiting the finest moments from his two-decades-plus catalog in a run-of-the-mill anthology of old album cuts, Bloom has cut vibrant new versions of songs from his previous releases.
“There is an angel I would like to know/I sing and dream her face/ Lying on my pillow/I kissed her one day in the cool of Brigid's well/my heart beat crystal clear like a church bell,” Bloom sings over a cheery chord structure on “Ciara,” a live favorite.
“Love Is a Monsoon” is another show highlight, a sensual track originally from Between the Mountain and the Moon. “Goosebumps all around my skin/whenever you come into the room/fresh wild smell of jasmine/love is a monsoon,” he sings.
For a fan like me, who owns almost everything the man has ever recorded, this collection does little in swaying my opinion of Bloom one way or another.
Some songs, like “Cold Comfort” from Turf, are almost indistinguishable from the original version. In other tracks, like “The Acoustic Motorbike,” he successfully transforms the song into something new by stripping the melody down to its most elemental level.
Those rabid followers may have hurt feelings that some of their favorites were left off this collection (mine is “Sonny Sailor Boy” and it appears as a live version at the end), but what makes a collection like this so interesting is that you get the artist’s choice of his favorite work, not just the hits or most obvious choices.
For some that are less familiar with Bloom’s musical charms, Dreams in America is a great primer to what is sure to be an audio love affair.
We emailed back and forth with one another over the last week or so; here are the best bits in interview format.
For more information or to hear samples of Bloom’s work, log onto www.lukabloom.com. He might even have a few more shows on his itinerary that you can check out, so make sure you click on the "live dates" section while you are there.
What prompted you to re-record these songs?
The 20th anniversary of the release of Riverside in 1990 caused me to reflect on a magical time in my life spent in America, especially New York. I decided to revisit songs from that time and since, rerecord them at home, and send them out as a thank you to all the people who plugged in then and since.
There were some songs like “Acoustic Motorbike” which I don't remember you playing live in the last few tours (I never heard it live yet). How was it revisiting some of those lesser known/played songs?
I love singing “Acoustic Motorbike” again, and revisiting these songs brings about renewed friendship.
Did you think they held up well?
They are holding up just fine, thanks.
What did you learn from updating them?
I learned that certain songs are indeed timeless, that it’s okay to give songs a break, but it is great to resume the relationship.
How have audience responded to the CD and hearing some old friends in the setlist? Anything surprised you on the response?
The record has just been released, but the shows are telling me that those who know me are very happy to hear these songs again.