The World Online - 25 January 2000
Luka Bloom - Salty Heaven
From covering songs by LL Cool J to exploring Irish spirituality, Luka Bloom has had a colorful musical career.
His latest album "Salty Heaven" shows a mature Bloom, now firmly planted in his native Ireland.
The archetypal story of coming to America is about an immigrant who works hard, rises up from the drudgery of
blue collar work to become a white collar entrepreneur, settling in the suburbs. Here's a different story line. The
World's Marco Werman tells us about an Irish folk singer, who came, heard, borrowed and went back home.
Werman: When Irish folk singer Barry Moore arrived in the United States in 1986, he did something millions
of previous arrivals to our shores had done - he gave himself a makeover. Barry, the younger brother of folk singer
Christy Moore, took as his new first name "Luka", the title character of Suzanne Vegaís 1987 hit single;
and, as his surname, "Bloom", as in Leopold Bloom, the hero of James Joyce's "Ulysses".
His repertoire also changed when he came to America.
Rapper LL Cool J recorded "I Need Love" in 1987. Six years later, Luka Bloom performed it at
New York's leading folk club, the Bottom Line.
Luka Bloom: "I Need Love" opened up an audience for me. Rap didn't make any sense
at all until I came to America, until I came to New York, it was in my face, it was on the street. You know if I opened
my window in the place I was staying in that's what came out of the cars going by.
Werman: Luka Bloom says the narrative quality of the black music he discovered in New York City jibed
perfectly with his background as an Irishman.
Bloom: I come from a very lyrical tradition. People love to read Irish books. And they love to go to Irish
plays, and in recent years go to see Irish films. You know we have a great history of storytelling. So I felt very
comfortable listening to certain elements of the rap world. I love the challenge of connecting lyrics and rhythm,
to bridge the gap between being a supposed Irish folk singer and LL Cool J. You know the other thing about it
is quite simply is that it worked. And also itís an amazing song. Itís a very complex piece of work.
Werman: Luka Bloom returned to Ireland in the mid nineties, and has lived there ever since. But the New
York influence has stuck. At times, Luka Bloom's latest album "Salty Heaven" feels like Snoop Doggy
Dogg meets William Butler Yeats.
He made a name for himself in New York folk circles, but New York credentials don't mean much Luka Bloom.
That's partly why he returned to live among the Irish.
Bloom: Because they regard themselves, everybody is a writer, everybody is a poet, so they're not going
to take somebody like me seriously just because I get paid for doing it. I like it. I know it sounds a bit weird, but I like it.
It's very grounding to live in Ireland if you're a singer or a writer, you know. I've heard Bono talking about this. You know
as somebody once said to Bono, 'You know you could live in Los Angeles, you could live in London, you could live in
any city in the world, so how come you just live and choose to stay at home?' And itís because people don't take him
seriously. As he said, 'You could be walking down the street in Dublin and you'd see two guys and one of them would
say, Oh God, there's Bono. And the other would say, oh that idiot. You know and thatís the way it is. Itís nice. People
generally speaking leave you alone, theyíre not awestruck so easily.
Werman: Still, Luka Bloom is making the Irish pay attention by turning his song writing focus on certain
realities of his Irish world.
Bloom: In 1922 when we commenced our statehood, the Catholic Church was sitting in on the formation
of our constitution. So we literally became a Catholic state, a Roman Catholic state. And like a lot of people I
parted company with the Catholic church when I was 15. Since then I think again like a lot of people I've been
trying to find my way home. And thatís a journey thatís ongoing, and I feel very privileged that itís a journey I'm
allowed to articulate through my songs.
Werman: The journey Luka Bloom sings about in "The Shape of Love To Come" is spiritual.
But he's also taken a physical journey back home.
Bloom: I never wanted to leave Ireland, I really did't. I wasn't one of those people who left Ireland very
bitter and angry and frustrated. And I was quite determined that as soon as I arrived at a point where I could
earn a living and yet be based in Ireland that I would resume living status in Ireland. I'm quite happy to be there.
It's where my family lives, itís where my friends are. It is my home, and I have you know... it's a very interesting
little country. Itís given the world an awful lot creatively, and the most important thing it's given the world is its people.
Werman: Luka Bloom is too self effacing to say that he's one of those people. His music says that for him.
Kildare Nationalist - Friday, February 25, 2000
Luka Blooms at Red Hot Music Club
On Thursday, February 10, yet another full house greeted the performers at this, the second show
of the series in the Red Hot Music Club. The show opened this time round with a fabulous support
performance by popular Kildare singer/songwriter Ciaran Wynne.
The headlining act for this show was none other than local hero Luka Bloom. This was Luka's
second time to play at the Red Hot Music Club and it was another fantastic show. He was in great voice
and played extremely well as he thrilled the audience with great performances of such well known
songs as 'Holy Ground', 'Ciara', 'Don't be so Hard on Yourself' and 'The Shape of Love to Come',
all of which are tracks from his album 'Salty Heaven', released in June '98.
He also played such songs as 'The Fertile Rock' and 'I Need Love', which come from some of his
older albums. Throughout the show Luka appeared very relaxed and shared a great rapport with
Between songs, he told stories from his younger days which almost everyone in the audience could
relate to or, in some cases, remember.
Towards the end of his performance he did some covers from such classic performers as
Van Morrison, Jim Reeves and Bob Dylan. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the show, which
was another great success for the Red Hot Music Club. Luka left the stage saying "It was a
great privilege to sing at the best club in the country."
...However, if you do happen to miss any of the wonderful shows at the Red Hot Music Club,
you can tune in to the 'Red Hot Slot' on CKR Radio (97.6) on Sundays between 8 and 10 pm
where the live performances will be broadcast.
For booking, membership or further information please contact Doreen on 087 6852972.
Post Gazette - Friday, March 24, 2000
Music Preview: Celtic singer Luka Bloom
makes his way back from a major-label exile
The first and only time Luka Bloom played Pittsburgh, in 1992,
it was a beautiful summer evening and the big doors of Rosebud were thrown open to
the night air. He paced the stage like a fighter staring down the audience
and pounding away at an acoustic guitar so laden with effects it sounded
like an orchestra on stage.
That was Bloom in another era, a brash young talent from Ireland who landed
in Greenwich Village in 1988 adopting a first name from the Suzanne Vega
song and a last name plucked from James Joyce's "Ulysses". It was a way of
reinventing himself and also disguising his identity as the younger brother
of one of Ireland's most beloved folk singers, Christy Moore.
He was hailed as a new type of punkish folk singer. But that exuberant Luka
Bloom of "Riverside" and "The Acoustic Motorbike" has mellowed somewhat.
With his past two records, "Turf" and the new "Salty Heaven", Bloom explores
a more quiet and reflective side of himself.
"When I first came to America," he says, "I had this sort of postpunk
vision, and what it basically was, was having listened to early Simple
Minds, the Clash, U2 and those kind of acts, I got this dream in my mind of
creating this style of performance that was wild enough that I could make
people pay attention. Because 12, 13 years ago, people were saying to me,
'No one's interested in male singer-songwriters.' I was just determined to
do something completely different. I had a style of performance that was
But I think you have to evolve. If you look at the difference between U2
now and in the early '80s, if they were to continue making every album like
'October,' 'Boy' and 'War,' people would be completely sick of them by now.
You can't spend your whole life looking for attention. I can't keep playing
the same song over and over."
The question lately has not just been "Where is the old Luka Bloom?", but
"Where is Luka Bloom, period?" Well, first off, he left New York to return
home to Europe. Secondly, he pulled that disappearing act, in America at
least, that comes with having record label problems.
He was released from his original label, Reprise, after 1994's "Turf." Then
Sony bought the rights to "Salty Heaven" and decided not to release it in
America and Europe. Finally, they agreed to license it to the smaller ethnic
music label Shanachie.
"What it comes down to at the end of the day is life choices," Bloom says.
"I don't think I'm unique in realizing that the way to present your music is
not necessarily best served by going with major labels. I think major labels
are best for artists who want to sell humongous quantities of records, have
a huge profile and be famous celebrities. With the Internet and the small
labels emerging, it's possible for an artist like me to have a good working
life without selling our souls to the devil."
While some artists have become bitter or even lashed out at the record
industry in their work, Bloom says he didn't let it affect his art.
"Bitterness is not an option in my life," he says. "At the end of the day,
if I am able to earn my living singing for people, as opposed to having to
sit in traffic every morning and go to a poxy office with a poxy boss
sitting over my shoulder, I'm a very privileged individual. So I don't think
I have any right to sing songs about how tough my life is or how tough my
working life is with record companies."
When he was living in New York, Bloom's music was taking on some of the
rhythms of the big city. He even made a splash with a cover of LL Cool J's
"I Need Love". Moving back home, he says, "If you're in the countryside in
Ireland, you're not going to hear any LL Cool J on the street, you know what I mean."
And so, his music has taken on a more lush and pastoral sound. He also was
inspired to write about issues native to his country, namely the stunning,
9-minute "Forgiveness", about Irish natives fleeing the shores during the
famine that killed 2 million people.
"It had a huge effect on our country and continues to affect us," Bloom
says. "We're only beginning to recover from it. The impact on our psyche was
so huge, it gave us a huge sense of being the underdog. There was a huge
bleeding of people from the island, many of whom came to America, to build
railroads, to do great work and to do terrible work. It's a brutal story. I
wanted to write a song which captured the essence of the pain of that story,
but which didn't leave you there, because there have been millions of
ballads written about that time and they're all very tragic. But I wanted to
write something which also is a bit dream-like where you wake up from the
dream and you're in the here and now, and you're dealing with the memory of
this awful time, and finding a way to let go of it. And the way to let go is
Although his records may be more somber now, word is that the shows are still high energy.
"I don't say I'm not going to be like the Clash anymore, I'm going to be
like Chet Baker now," he says. "I just do what feels right for me. I have to
say people are still getting off on the shows."
Scott Mervis - Weekend Editor
All Ireland Music - November 2000
Luka Bloom speaks to All Ireland Music about his new album,
his music career and about being 'Christy's brother'...
When Irish singer songwriter Luka Bloom rapped to LL Cool J's 'Need Love' - all be it in a folkie style - back in 1992
he knew he'd hit on a winning formula; the cover version. Eight years on and Bloom has just released an entire album
of songs by other artists. 'Keeper of the Flame' contains a diverse collection of his interpretations of songs including
Bob Dylan's 'Make You Feel My Love', U2's 'Bad' and Radiohead's 'No Surprises' amongst others. All Ireland
Music's Dara de Faoite talks with Luka Bloom.
- Why did you decide to do a covers album?
L. Bloom: "Ever since I recorded 'I Need Love' for the 'Acoustic Motorbike' album people have
said to me to do such an album. This year I woke up and started work on an album of my own songs but I had
a real hunger to do something different, something that would challenge me in a completely different way. While
the emotional challenge of the lyrics has already been taken care of, these songs test me in a different way.
They challenge my voice and my performance."
Bloom sees 'Keeper of the Flame' as being more about transformation than simple interpretation. And no other
artist can be as intricately versed in the field of reinvention and transformation as Bloom. With a musical background
steeped in all things traditional Irish, no home-grown musician has done so much to distance themselves from the
trappings of the Celtic folk label.
Originally Barry Moore of Newbridge, Co. Kildare,
and brother to trad legend Christy Moore, Luka Bloom is an enigmatic transformation of his former self.
L. Bloom: "I always wanted my songs to be heard as just that and not as songs from an Irish folk
singer. That kind of labeling can restrict your whole working life and by having this pretentious pop pseudonym
I've had a world open up before me."
After a lengthy career playing with and writing for Planxty, Moving Hearts, Inchiquin and Christy throughout the
70s and 80s and recording three collectable solo albums, Bloom broke away from the shadows of his famous
sibling and the trad movement.
L. Bloom: "Being Christy's brother certainly troubled me in the beginning, years ago, but that's
ancient history. It's hard for me now to figure out whether the difficulty lay in being someone's brother or was it
just about the way I was feeling at that time. I think it was much more the latter. I had no belief in myself, I had no
confidence, I had no ambition and yet I wanted to be successful, to be blunt about it I suppose I was a bit f***ed up."
Bloom changed his name in 1987 and left for New York where he spent four years. Today 95% of Bloom's work
takes place outside of Ireland. This year alone he toured the U.S., Europe and Australia.
L. Bloom: "I made a very conscious decision when I became Luka Bloom that I was going to go
abroad and not find myself playing to Irish audiences. I deliberately gave myself a name that sounded like I
could be a Jewish woman to meet this end. I love playing to Irish audiences but the best place to do that is at
home. Although at home I still have the sense that people are coming along to check me out. It's the home turf
thing. I would be much more nervous going on stage in Dublin's Olympia than I would in Melbourne's Concert Hall."
- What are your favourite songs on the album?
L. Bloom: "I don't have a favourite because when you make a decision to work with songs like
this it's not based on love of one particular song it's more the love of the whole project. There are songs that
affect me in different ways on this album. Some on an emotional level and some because I just like the chords."
- Any songs that you wanted to include which you didn't?
L. Bloom: "Yeah, a Robbie Robertson song called 'Golden Feather'."
- How do you write?
L. Bloom: "I stop writing for a year at a time, I hide away, get out of Dublin. That's when I go to work.
I'm very easily distracted by all sorts of technology so I really have to get away from everything to write."
- Why so much work abroad?
L. Bloom: "Ireland is a beautiful country and I'm happy to live here but on the whole island there's
less than five million people. I'm never going to be as big as Daniel O'Donnell or Christy at home so I need to
travel. I consider myself very lucky."
- But does an Irish singer/songwriter always attract an Irish audience whether it's Clonakilty or Sydney?
L. Bloom: "No, when I play in Sydney I'd say only 8% of the audience would be Irish. I love the road,
this is what I do, I'm a singer. It's a bit like a boxer in the sense that a boxer has to fight, I have to play."
Wexford Echo - Friday, 24 November 2000
Luka to play in Wexford
All Luka Bloom fans will be keen to know that the man will give a special once-off acoustic
performance at Square Discs at 12 noon this Friday, November 24th.
The performance is part of a promotional tour of music stores around the country with his
new album, "Keeper of the Flame".