Luka Bloom was born Kevin Barry Moore in Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, in 1955, and took his stage name after moving to the US in 1987. "Luka" was supposedly chosen for Suzanne Vega’s song of that title, while "Bloom" stems from the main character of James Joyce’s magnum opus, Ulysses. The folksy singer-songwriter has but a hint of his native accent in This New Morning, and it is an easy record in which to become immersed.
While many contemporary singer-songwriters sound alike to me, I found Luka Bloom’s latest album more rewarding than most. Though it’s easy on the ears when played as background or ambient music, close attention reveals Bloom’s singing to be quite refined, and his lyrics to be substantive and significant, in contrast to the trite lyrics peddled by many aspiring singer-songwriters. Twenty- and thirtysomething angst is nowhere to be heard, as Bloom’s 57 years of wisdom shine through with an almost resigned quality.
"Heart Man" is my toe-tapping favorite of these 14 original compositions, and a perfect example of the genre-straddling style that Bloom adopts. Strumming guitars underlie Bloom’s cultured vocals as he croons "A wise man once told me / give a little thanks to all your enemies / they teach me / how to let go / how to be free / how to find the better side of me." A harmonica flits in the background, to add a dash of folk to what is otherwise a casual indie-rock song.
As light and playful as "Heart Man" is, "Capture a Dream" follows up with a more ruminative tone, giving the album greater dimensionality. A flute purrs in and out of a tune largely propelled by a number of violins, Bloom’s clean singing, and his ever-present guitar. The sound quality is commendable, if not quite as grain-free and effortless as the best recordings these days. At the same time, Bloom’s singing is terrific, and the sound quality is more than good enough to let his talent be heard.
That talent lies not only in Bloom’s voice, but in his lyrics as well. In "A Seed Was Sown" he touches on Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Ireland, the first in her 60 years on the throne. He sings of the tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011 in "Gaman," a slow, somber track in which Bloom’s rich voice delves into the destruction at Fukushima. Gaman, Japanese for patience or perseverance, is an appropriate word for this album. What first sounded to me like a simple singer-songwriter with an accent yielded many dividends over subsequent hearings. While the overall sound quality leads to an experience that is a touch soft and kind, it is emblematic of Bloom’s musical perspective, one marked by decades of accrued knowledge, of both the musical and life variety. This New Morning offers listeners quite a musical odyssey, and aptly lives up to Bloom’s namesake.
. . . Hans Wetzel