Luka Bloom - Press Biography

Luka Bloom's 'Keeper Of The Flame'

...in which, for the first time in his career, Luka solely performs the songs of other artists - is about transformation, not simply interpretation. And that's what his career has always been about. After all, it was a dozen years ago that he transformed himself, on a flight from Dublin to Washington D.C., from a singer-songwriter named Barry Moore to an itinerant ex-pat troubadour named Luka Bloom. With a new name and a new, albeit temporary, home, he built a reputation and a fan base, while commuting via train between D.C. and New York City. He attracted major-label interest and signed a deal with Warner Bros/Reprise Records that yielded three highly acclaimed albums - 'Riverside', 'Acoustic Motorbike', and 'Turf' - and carried his music around the world. When he eventually returned to Ireland, he was something of a star. He had been transformed.

Luka Bloom His audiences learned that Luka was also able to transform the cover material he occasionally performed. He chose his covers sparingly but wisely, performing an anthemic, clamored-for version of the Waterboys' "This Is The Sea" and a delicate rendition of Sam Phillips' little known gem, "River Of Love" - and sometimes he blended the two into a suite of songs that built to an almost religious intensity. Then there was his startling reworking of L.L. Cool J's rap classic, "I Need Love", in which sexy, streetwise come- ons set to break beats were turned into romantic bedroom balladry for acoustic guitar, bodhran, and fiddle. This iconoclastic take on "I Need Love" helped to make 'Acoustic Motorbike' one of his most perennially popular releases. He covered Elvis on that one too, with a gentle rendition of "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You".

Luka has toyed with other tunes on the concert stage since then: a fiesty version of Prince's "When Does Cry", a stunning, straightforward rendering of "Everybody Hurts" well before the Corrs appropriated it - but except for a brooding version of the traditional ballad "Black Is The Colour" and "Sunny Sailor Boy", a never-before-recorded Mike Scott song that he personally gave to Luka, none of his covers have made it to disc. What he has done now is a rare achievement when it comes to covers: he has created something entirely original from found materials. "Keeper Of The Flame" is as personal and revealing as any of his previous, self-penned albums: an intimate glimpse into the heart and the mind of an unfailingly honest artist.

"I decided to use this project to celebrate the work of artists I love," Luka explains. "This was the decision that caused me to get fired up about the CD: the idea of taking songs that are already loved, by artists who are already loved, and presenting them in a unique musical environment. Some of this as about interpreting songs I already knew and felt comfortable with. Some of it was about challenging myself to perform songs that supposedly come from outside my area, from artists like The Cure, U2, Radiohead, and ABBA.

Rather than covering these songs as a novelty, I was determined to convey my love of these songs and the artists who created them. So much music is producer-driven and intensely layered; often it's a journey to get to the core of a song. The song is the flame to me, and in presenting these songs in a simple way, I want to be a keeper of the flame."

Luka's previous album, "Salty Heaven", which he made for Sony, was a relatively lush affair that spotlighted his increasingly expressive vocals in beautiful settings. "Keeper Of The Flame" is a return to an austerity that, in its way, is equally stunning. Luka co-produced the album at Windmill Lane with engineer Brian Masterson, returning to the environment where the pair had so successfully captured the essence of Luka's live performances with "Turf" six years before and taking the same largely solo approach. There were some special guests, however, including his brother Christy Moore on bodhran, flautist Conor Byrne, and fiddle player Nollaig Casey, all of whom leave their own indelible mark on this material.

Some of these tracks contain songs that Luka seemed destined to do, like Joni Mitchell's "Urge For Going" or Bob Marley's "Natural Mystic", which echoes Luka's own concert favorite, "The Fertile Rock". Others, like the Cure's "In Between Days" and Radiohead's "No Surprises", seem utterly unlikely, yet Luka makes them his own. He turns the R&B classic "Wishing On A Star" into a gentle ballad and reshapes "Dancing Queen" into something sweetly celebratory. The A-Teens can keep their synthesized ABBA concoctions; this one is for the grownups - and be sure to hold on to your partner while you're dancing.

Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter" would seem like standard-issue repertoire for any acoustic guitarist with an ear for a great folk tune. But Luka breathes new life into the song with a particularly stirring vocal performance that proves his singing has become just as expressive as his guitar playing.

"An unexpected side effect of this CD is I felt liberated as a singer," Luka reveals. "I think I felt a sense of responsibility to really try to do justice to the songs. Yet I was also freed from any self-consciousness because I was articulating the experience of other people. This is new territory for me. I've done covers before, but never in this singular, focused way. I hope that the love comes through."

Among his greatest challenges was tackling "Bad", one of U2's signature songs. But Luka brought his own emotions to the track, feelings resurrected from his earliest days in America, after he had just left Barry Moore behind. Perhaps that's what makes his version of "Bad" so affecting.

As Luka explains: "It was winter, 1988. Do the gig at the Red Lion in Greenwich Village and decide to take the night train back to D.C. I'm in Penn Station at one a.m. It's a very sad and scary scene there - many walking wounded, cold, huddled, mumbling casualties. By the time the train pulls in, I'm in a dark place inside. I sit on the train and take out my walkman. As the train pulls out of Penn, I stumble across a radio station, the opening notes of the Edge's intro ease into my ears, and I instantly feel connected to something serene and beautiful. I leave the New York skyline to the sound of 'Let it go, and so to fade away...' Somehow, all was well in the world again. I was meant to hear this song, in this way, at this moment.

And so it is one one my very favourite songs of all time. I could never have imagined that 12 years later I'd be singing it, celebrating it, passing it on."

In that instant, Luka Bloom was transformed by a song. Put on Keeper Of The Flame and that may happen to you, too.

Michael Hill
New York, 2000


© Rena Bergholz - Luka Bloom Page