Bluestown Music

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Luka Bloom – Bittersweet Crimson
Format: CD – Digital / Label: Independent
Release: 2020

Tekst: Gerrit Schinkel

De Ierse singer-songwriter Luka Bloom wordt op 23 mei 1955 als Barry Moore geboren in Newbridge, in het Ierse graafschap Kildare. Zijn artiestennaam Luka Bloom is afgeleid van Luka, een grote hit van Suzanne Vega uit 1987 en Bloom is de achternaam van de hoofdpersoon uit de roman Ulysses van James Joyce uit 1922.

In 1978 verschijnt onder zijn geboortenaam Barry Moore zijn debuutalbum ‘Treaty Stone’. In 1980, Moore woont dan in Groningen, komt zijn tweede album ‘In Groningen’ uit. Nadat hij in 1982 nog een album onder de naam Moore uitbrengt verschijnen vanaf  1988 zijn albums onder de naam Luka Bloom. Bloom, die graag in Nederland speelt, hij trad o.a. op in Tivoli/Vredenburg, op Pinkpop en het Crossing Border Festival, beleeft in 1990 met het album ‘Riverside’ zijn doorbraak in ons land.

De afgelopen twee jaar heeft Bloom nieuw songmateriaal geschreven. Elf van deze songs staan op zijn nieuwe album ‘Bittersweet Crimson’, dat vorige maand verscheen. Bloom produceerde het album  samen met Jon O’Connell.

Het album opent heel rustig met het mooi gezongen liefdesliedje Can We Stay. Lekker ontspannen is  ook het op single uitgebrachte The Beauty of Everyday Things, met viool, bouzouki en backing vocals.
In The Day the Great Oak Fell brengt Bloom een schitterende ode aan de in 2013 overleden grote Noord-Ierse dichter en in 1995 winnaar van de Nobelprijs voor Literatuur Seamus Heaney.
Mooi is de bouzouki weer in het titelnummer Bittersweet Crimson. In het ingetogen en fraai geïnstrumenteerde Front Door Key trekt Bloom zich het lot aan van de Palestijnse vluchtelingen (‘who will sing for Palestine’).
De oude Ierse muziek wordt in Keepsake in het zonnetje gezet en in Love in Mali verklaart Bloom zijn liefde aan de muziek van Mali (‘I gave my love to Mali, the home of the desert blues’).
Who Will Heal the Land, met de fraaie backing vocals, doet mij denken aan Leonard Cohen. In dit lied brengt Bloom een eerbetoon aan Australische brandweerlieden. Luka Bloom maakt zich grote zorgen om het verdwijnen van natuur, zoals b.v. in het Amazonegebied, Australië en de VS.
In My Old Friend the Oak vertelt hij over een 800 jaar oude Ierse eik die hij jaarlijks bezoekt. The Hunger, met bouzouki en viool, is een soort meditatie. In het slotnummer Visions for 2020, komt toch weer enig optimisme naar voren.

‘Bittersweet Crimson’ is een zeer mooi album. Het is te hopen dat de Nederlandse concerten van Bloom in november en december doorgaan, zodat ook live genoten kan worden van deze prachtige songs die hij dan ongetwijfeld zal zingen.


Luka Bloom: Bittersweet Crimson Review – Plaintive Pleasures

Siobhan Long                 * * * *

24 July 2020

The utter joy in the ephemeral; the simplicity of life’s pleasures: Luka Bloom’s 22nd album could hardly be more timely. It’s as if it was gestating just for this moment when life has wound itself down to a lope (for some, at least). Bittersweet Crimson – recorded over two days in Windmill Lane studios just before lockdown, and taking its title from the Persian pomegranate – reaches wide and digs deep.

Reflections on the intimacy of old flames and friendship, on the wider horizon, the usurping of Palestine’s homeland and of the universality of community (from west Clare to Timbuktu) preoccupy Bloom and fuel this delicate collection. The songs are leavened by the attentive trio of Jon O’Connell, Steve Cooney and Robbie Harris (with Niamh Farrell’s subtlest of backing vocals and Adam Shapiro’s vital skeins of fiddle).

The languid pacing leaves ample space for multiple readings of Who Will Heal the Land (though its kinship to his ode to Palestine in Front Door Key is tangible), and its segue into a genteel reading of The Foggy Dew adds further resonance to what is already a plaintive plea to bridge the disconnect between heart and head.

A Heaney tribute (The Day the Great Oak Fell) and Hunger, a spoken-word meditation on the life source that propels us onwards, are two more that linger long after their final notes.

Respite and resilience in pristine balance.


HOT PRESS Album Review:
Luka Bloom, Bittersweet Crimson

Jackie Hayden

His Name Is Luka.

Mr Bloom’s 22nd album has been trailed by ‘The Beauty of Everyday Things’, a song highly redolent of Co. Clare. It’s adorned by the magical guitar of Steve Cooney, while Sligo woman Niamh Farrell’s silken voice, added remotely, nicely counters Bloom’s rugged, outdoors-y tones. It also reminds one of ‘Only a Woman’s Heart’.

That sense of the outdoors is all over ‘The Day the Great Oak Fell’ too, with its plangent guitar and Bloom’s voice at its most delicate. It’s another reminder of Bloom as captivating scene-painter and wordsmith. There’s a light jauntiness to ‘Can We Stay’, a touching love song, while the album’s title-track has an almost baroque feel.

‘Who Will Heal the Land’ confronts a global question made even more urgent by the pandemonium of the pandemic. Farrell adds a spectral dimension to a wistful song that looks anxiously towards the future, ‘The Hunger’ can’t but remind us of a past pandemic of a different kind. It also comes with some plaintive fiddle from Adam Shapiro, and Bloom’s vocal occupies a space somewhere between Van and the rejuvenated Dylan.

The album ends with the measured optimism of ‘Vision For 2020’, leavened by Shapiro’s deft fiddle, Farrell’s harmonies and Bloom’s vocal – rooted as always, in his native earth.

Bittersweet Crimson is out now – and available



Luka Bloom

At his best (and he’s in top form on this album), Luka Bloom is the equal of
his legendary folkie brother, Christy Moore. Listen to the gloriously evocative
The Beauty of Everyday Things and marvel at how a voice suffused with
honesty and sincerity can turn a celebration of “everyday things” into a deeply
moving experience. Equally, the remarkable My Old Friend the Oak Tree is so p
owerful and perfectly delivered that it becomes almost visceral. This understated
message about climate change and the need to love and celebrate the ancient
beauty of nature really makes you want to leap up and embrace a tree. Bloom
has been performing for more than 30 years (he’s toured Australia 13 times)
and yet, because he is living in and feeding off Ireland’s rich musical landscape,
he still sounds as fresh and passionate as if he picked up a guitar and started
writing songs yesterday. Every piece confirms there’s no substitute for absorbing
the richness of a vibrant musical culture. Long after he revealed his rare talents
with The Acoustic Motorbike back in 1991, here’s a demonstration of his enduring
relevance as a great Irish troubadour.




Own Label – Eleven songs – 46 minutes

Three seconds in and you know instantly this is a Luka Bloom album.  There is something intangibly familiar, call it an accent or an attitude, yet again Luka has created another classic album, his 22nd to date.  His guitar playing is rich, the production bringing out the velvet tone of his acoustic guitar, his voice mellow, in perfect tandem with his playing. Three core players, Steve Cooney, Robbie Harris and Jon O’Connell join Luka in the recording.
Recorded in two days in February in 2020 at Dublin’s Windmill Lane Studios.  It was very much a spontaneous affair, with the ensemble working their way into the songs, which Luka had written over the preceding two years.  Delicate touches of post-production fiddle by Adam Shapiro. Niamh Farrell added her voice remotely when the Covid 19 lockdown came into play, they finally met at the album Launch in Doolin on August 8th.

Luka lives in Liscannor, almost as west as you can get in Clare, with the rest of the country at his back, this perspective permeates a collection that is considered and reflective, the album rooted in the everyday appreciation of what we have right now, on the ground. There are two songs about oak trees, symbols of longevity, witnesses to things that are only history to us, My Old Friend the Oak Tree and The Day the Great Oak Fell, a tribute to Seamus Heaney, written at the time of his passing. The melody of The Beauty of Everyday Things, is easy going and catchy, he outshines this with the joyful simplicity of Love to Mali.  Who Will Heal the Land, is inspired by the Australian wildfires of 2019 and early 2020; evocatively closing with The Foggy Dew, fading to an echoed question, ‘could we heal the land’?

On the final track Vision for 2020, Luka sings, “hanging out with daydreams, far from the bump and grind”.  It is a call for tea and conversation and the simplicity of friendship, something that has become a longed for commodity as we’ve become socially distanced.

Recently and very publicly Luka has railed against streaming services which pay a pittance per track to the music makers.  Consequently you can only get the album directly from Luka –
He and you will enjoy the personal touch; owning the album is owning a deeply emotional and humane body of work.

Sean Laffey



Luka Bloom strolls onto the stage of the Black Box with a cup of coffee in his hand. It could be tea, we will never know. He is unassuming which really doesn’t fit a man of his stature in Irish music over the last forty-something years, but that is the man he is.

A quick “hello”, the lights dim and he tells us that this is the culmination of a short tour covering wonderfully exotic places including Limavady, Bellaghy and this final show in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast.

He opens the show with Diamond Mountain, one man, his guitar and a bucketful of passion. There is no working off a set list and he says he will play whatever comes to mind. Just what a packed house wanted to hear.

Luka Bloom - Black Box, Belfast

At the conclusion of his opening song the first request of the evening comes from the back of the room. Rescue Mission it is, and he promises to play it at some stage during the evening.

He sings I Am Not At War With Anyone as a tribute to Lyra McKee and is perfect. It is a song that extols the virtues of life and love, something she was passionate about.

Luka talked about writing songs at the age of 16 on his guitar at home but taking a lifetime to realise he could make a living from the misery in them. Wave Up To The Shore was that song he wrote at the age of 16 and he recorded it in 2016 some 45 years after he wrote it.

The Black Box in Belfast is a small and intimate venue and Luka Bloom makes no bones about how much he loves the place. So much so that he says it is the only venue in Belfast he will ever play.

He plays Here and Now tying it in perfectly with the analogy that if you worry you die and if you don’t worry you die. You make the choice..

He is the ultimate storyteller through his songs, both beautiful and heart-rending, that we all can relate to. But he also just enjoys telling stories like his meeting with Lord Rosse who resides at Birr Castle in Co Offaly and how he thought that it was ok to call him Brendan instead of Lord. He could not bring himself to call him Lord. That is Luka Bloom in a nutshell. We are all equal.

Sanas tells of a love for a tree at Birr Castle and he confesses to being a bit of a tree hugger.

Luka Bloom - Black Box, Belfast

His guitar playing is wonderful, each strum and each immaculate chord change, it has an ethereal silence in the background that hangs and is the mark of a great guitarist.

Bogman shows us the simplicity of life in the rural parts of Ireland, including his home in County Clare whilst Water is Life is dedicated to those that seek to protect the earth from the march of those seeking to make gain from the planet they are ultimately destroying. He pays tribute to the inspirational Greta Thunberg and the Sioux Indians in Dakota, USA.

He wrote Cello As Everest in tribute to Jacqueline Du Pre, widely regarded as one of the worlds greatest cellist, who passed away at the young age of 42. The song tells how music stays in your memory forever.

The Belfast audience is his tribe tonight, he makes sure this audience knows this, the tribe encompassing all the people who follow him around the world, listening to his music.

Bloom steps out of his comfort zone to give us his interpretation of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise and whilst it is as far removed from his own brand of songwriting it has a heartbeat that is unmistakably Luka Bloom.

He speaks fondly of the annual Leonard Cohen tribute night now held in his hometown in Co Clare and how it is the town of a million stories.

He sings City of Chicago, made famous by his brother Christy Moore but written originally by Bloom, with a jibe that he has been doing a cover version of his own song for 34 years. A new arrangement makes the original sound even better.

He plays songs from his extensive back catalogue. Gone To Pablo, Exploring The Blueand some hour and twenty minutes after it was first requested Rescue Mission. He has gone back to a number of earlier releases but embraces those older songs with a renewed love. It is what this audience has come to hear.

Luka Bloom - Black Box, Belfast

Warrior is a song about just that. Becoming a warrior but he begs that it is not channelled in a toxic way, but for good. Put away your guns and learn to cry. There is no doubting his passion.

You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time would have closed any show perfectly but that was just the beginning of the end. There was an encore without the normal walk off and back on again. That would be too tiring he says.

This show doesn’t look like it is ever going to end. He plays the Van Morrison classic Madame George. He dismisses the cry from the floor that it is better than the original but there is no doubting it has this audience gripped.

After some two hours it is indeed time for the final song. He plays what he calls the greatest ever Irish folk song Raglan Road made famous by Luke Kelly of the Dubliners and with its fantastic acoustic guitar solo it is indeed a fitting end to an emotional and heartwarming show.

His brother, Christy Moore, plays in Belfast this week and he will have his work cut out to match this performance from his younger brother. Belfast waits with bated breath on the return of Luka Bloom