Produced by Luka Bloom & Brian Masterson
1-12 Recorded by Brian Masterson, December 2009 in Blacktrench, Co Kildare.
Luka Bloom - Guitar & Vocals
13-14 Recorded August 2009 in the National Concert Hall, Dublin.
Featuring members of the National Concert Hall Orchestra led by Ken Rice.
Strings arranged by Joe Csibi.
15 Recorded March 2009 in AB Brussels. Featuring Joe Csibi, Dave Hingerty & Conor Byrne.
Mixed & mastered by Brian Masterson at Soundscape, Dublin.
All songs written by Luka Bloom except of Lord Franklin & Black Is The Colour, trad. arr. Luka Bloom
Sunny Sailor Boy, Mike Scott (Sony Music Publishing).
1, 2, 4, 9, 10 - Warner Chappell.
5 & 8 - BMG UK.
3, 7, 11, 13, 14 - IMRO Ireland/MCPS.
Design - www.pointblank.ie.
Photography - Ewa Figaszewska, www.figaszewska.com.
More than twenty years ago, Barry Moore left Ireland for America. Eventually settling in
New York City, he created a new identity for his work, and for his future audience. And
so, Luka Bloom was born. The performer I saw at the Red Lion on Greenwich Village’s
Bleecker Street was playing an Irish bar but he wasn’t by any means an Irish folk singer.
What he did back then intriguingly eluded easy definition. It was less the words at first
but the sound of his open-tuned guitar that was mesmerizing, the way he could go from
brooding to brash,intimate to anthemic, to get the crowd roaring or breath-holding silent.
He was a one-man rock show.
What I remember most about the content of his new songs then were how they portrayed
him as a new sort of Irish émigré, whose style of playing, like his brand new
name, bore little trace of where he came from or what we presumed he would sound like
at a place like the Red Lion, where wanna-be troubadours came and went every night.
Luka was reinventing himself, song by song, before our very eyes.
A funny thing happened in the process. Just as Luka articulated a contemporary way
to look at - and to be an Irishman in New York City (on songs like 'Dreams In America',
the underrated 'Hudson Lady' and yes, even 'An Irishman In Chinatown' always a crowd
pleaser), he was subtly encouraging us to consider where he’d come from differently.
He was, in a way, an emissary from a country on the verge of tremendous change.
By the time I first went to Ireland in early winter 1989, Dublin was a city undergoing
a profound transformation, just like Luka was. The city was still shrouded in smoke
from coal fires but Temple Bar was being resurrected; there were good bands and
good food; and I met lots of artists and musicians who weren’t moving anywhere.
It was no wonder Luka chose, after the turn of the decade, to return to Ireland for
good. His dreams in America had taken him back to a place called home; his
songs documented the journey.
A&R Warner Bros New York (1983 to 1998)
I'm allergic to nostalgia. Long nights reminiscing about the good old days are a bit of
a yawn to me. Much more excited by the good now days, the next song, the next gig,
the seed of the next record....
And yet, perhaps it's ok to press the pause button for a moment, and reflect a tiny bit on
experiences over a period of time. Not dwell too long; just feel it again, pay respect to the
places and the people. Say thank you to life for bringing me here. Say thank you to all
the people who have shared the journey so far.
It was in the Colony restaurant in 1986. A laneway down by Bewley's in Grafton Street in
Dublin held this restaurant run by Niall Carey.
I played there once a week. It was one of 3 or 4 residencies I was doing in Dublin at that time.
After 3 records and no real progress, I was running out of road on the island. Yet I felt something
in the new songs, something in the sound I was making, that drove me to believe, if only......
That night in the Colony, there were 4 people at 2 tables. 2 couples.
I sang my heart out for 2 hours; old songs, new songs, gave it everything, as always.
When finished, one of the men at a table asked me over to say hello.
His name was Michael Jaworek, and he was honeymooning with his wife
Debbie. Michael was, and still is, a much respected promoter in Washington DC. He gave me his
business card; the first time anyone ever gave me such a thing, and told me he would get me a
gig anytime I wanted to come to America.
This simple moment lit a little spark within me. Hope.
So many people were struggling in Ireland. It was unbearable for any of us to leave family,
friends, familiarity. None of us wanted to go.
But what was the choice? I joined the ranks of Irishmen and women taking the boats and
planes in search of possibility. In the late '80s there were 100,000 of us in New York alone.
In heading to America, I also chose to acknowledge the utter newness of this adventure,
by taking on a professional name, Luka Bloom. Hey, why not? This is for the songs. Let's see
what's out there. It felt like the last throw of the dice.
'Hi, my name is Luka Bloom. I'm over from Ireland, and would love to sing in your club'.
This was my introduction to the music world of Washington DC, New York, Boston, Baltimore.
Up and down the east coast on the Amtrak train. 'ALL ABOARD"! Indeed.
Dylans in Georgetown, DC; The Red Lion on Bleecker Street in New York, various bars in Boston.....
For 2 years I jumped from one to the other, writing and singing non stop.
Coming into New York in the late 80s was overwhelming. AIDS, crack cocaine, wheeling
and dealing as ever. Too high, too fast, too big...
It was terrifying for a young man from the plains of Kildare; and it was utterly fantastic.
I realised one day, that New York was as shocking for a man from Iowa as for a man from
Kildare. I told myself to take a chillpill and give it time. It began to feel familiar. I walked and
walked for hours, endlessly fascinated and thrilled and exhausted and scared and overjoyed.
Some of the clubs had acts performing from 8pm until 4am every night, a new act every hour.
I deliberately worked the midweek nights, to build up my own crowd, and little by little it began to happen.
Over a period of 2 years I was taken in by the people in the Village.
They minded me. They said thank you for bringing us these songs. And I began to experience
that which is a cliche to many, but the reality for so many of us. A sense of hope and belief
that maybe there is a place in this world for these songs. And it started in New York.
In one intense period in early 1989 I met the people who became my managers, booking
agent, record company, publishers for the next 5 years. All in the Red Lion, Under Acme,
Urban Divide, The Knitting Factory, even CBGBs. Tom Prendergast, Glenn Morrow, Michael Hill,
Frank Riley, Kenny McPherson, Paddy Doherty.... to name but a few. I still call you my friends,
and I thank you. For they were magical days and nights.
Suddenly, life was different. Everything changed after Riverside in 1990. Calls came in from
Australia, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Swizerland, The UK, and of course, Ireland.
Those days in New York changed everything. They opened the door to the world. It
still amazes me.
Some of it was tough. In pre-email, pre text and cellphone days, contact with home was
sparse enough. And there is only so much you can share in letter or phone. It aches to be
away from the ones you love, but that is life for many of us. And hopefully, we do our best
when we get back home.
20 years later I decided to honour those times with a record. It is not a 'best of', with tracks
lifted from old records. I chose to revisit songs from the last 10 records since, and bring them
back to life with new versions. Sometimes it's a song I don't like the original recorded version
anymore; sometimes it's just a new feeling for a song. Sometimes it's the words, sometimes
it's the rhythm, and sometimes it's just the sounds on these guitars. This is raw. Its in my
livingroom. You can hear the guitarstrap creaking off the wood; the fingers banging off the body.
Hopefully you can feel the warmth in the room. It's about the songs, the sound of these strings,
and most of all, the words.
And, though I claim to be allergic to nostalgia, it is about the memories also, and they
are so good. There were a few little moments when I felt like a king; just so happy to have
arrived at a place where it was normal to be singing, not struggling to be singing. What
a relief. I had this dream, and struggled with it. And in New York it became a reality,
so strong that 20 years later the fire still burns stronger than ever.
It's good to remember all this. It's good to be grateful. It's good to say thank you to the
places and people who opened their hearts and minds to the songs of a Kildareman.
Ye brought me to the foot of the mountain, and I'm still trekking....
There is one 'new' song on this record. It is in fact, a very old song called Lord Franklin.
I sing it in honour of my friend Micheal O'Domhnaill, whose version of the song was, and
still is, the definitive one for me.
And finally as this record is about the last 20 years, I felt it would be nice to include a few live tracks.
'I Hear Her, Like Lorelei', and 'Love Is Monsoon' were recorded in the National Concert Hall
in Dublin with members of the National Concert Hall Orchestra in August 2009.
And 'Sunny Sailor Boy' is from AB in Brussels in March 2009.
Brian Masterson engineered my first ever record TREATY STONE in Dublin in 1977.
We've done a few together since, and here we are again, giving it a lash. Life is good.
See ye down the road,