Luka Bloom » publications 1999
Luka Bloom - Articles, Interviews & Live Reviews
Luka Bloom Tending the Flame of Justice and Peace
Kildare Nationalist - 12 February 1999

Flowering in Forgiveness - Ireland's History of Tears
Feeds 'Salty Heaven', on which Luka Bloom Imagines
Nightmarish Bitterness Yielding to Renewal and Reconciliation

Los Angeles Times - 31 May 1999

In full bloom
Daily Bruin Online - 3 June 1999

Luka Bloom
Philadelphia CityPaper.Net - 9-16 Sep 1999

Luka Bloom: Salty Heaven
Borders Online - September 1999

Luka to Bloom in Paris
The Irish Eyes - November 1999

Luka's Audiences
FolkWorld - December 1999

Kildare Nationalist - Breaking News - 12 February 1999

Tending the Flame of Justice and Peace

Christy Moore, Ireland's foremost balladeer, came out of his self-imposed retirement for a time on Saturday to help launch Kildares annual spring festival Feile Bride. Performing his own peace anthem 'North and South' to an appreciative audience in the towns square, Christy then lit St. Brigids flame of Justice and Peace with the help of Eleanor Vettiger, a peace worker who will be attending the centenary Conference of Peace in the Hague next May.

The melodious voices of Theotokos, a group of Mater Dei undergraduates, who came together under the baton of singer Noirin Ni Riain, heralded the lighting of the flame. Feile Bride 1999 began on Saturday January 30 with a pilgrimage from a Peace Pole, one of only 20 worldwide, which was erected on the Curragh that morning. The first Peace Pole was raised in Japan during the 1950's.

The Feile which is organised annually by Afri, Cairde Bhride and Dearcan Arts Group, has had Mary Robinson, Adi Roche, Claire O'Grady Walshe and John O'Donoghue author of Anam Cara as guest speakers in the past. As a forum where global issues of injustice and intolerance are voiced, listened to and acted upon, the conference is growing from strength to strength with each passing year. This years conference, which had the theme "Tending the Flame of Justice and Peace" focused on furthering the pace process in Northern Ireland, looked at our country's deepening involvement with NATO, at Indonesia's militarisation in West Papua and Third World debt. Speakers included Robbie McVeigh from Carrickfergus, a research officer with the West Belfast Economic Forum who has written extensively on racism and sectarianism in Ireland. Brendan Forde, a Franciscan priest who worked in Latin America for 25 years. Fr. Forde was deported from Chile during the regime General Pinochet after which he worked in El Salvador and Guatemala. He has been the topic of two documentaries, Friar in Blue Jeans and The Walking Priest.

Luka and Clare Clare O'Grady Walshe renowned for her work with Greenpeace International is now an advisor on peace and environmental issues Joe Murray founder member of Afri and co-author of the 1996 LINKS reported on Ireland's connections with the international arms trade. Other speakers included John Ondawame, a West Papuan representing the Amuungme people who are exploited for their mineral resources and Tom Hyland, a Dubliner, whos started the campaign to publicise the plight of the people of East Timor. Members of Crooked House Theatre group, performed excerpts from Donal O'Kelly's play The Business of Blood centering on the trial of Christopher Hunt who broke into and damaged the nose cones of British aerospace fighter planes in the early 90s.

Luka Bloom, an unfailing patron of Feile Bhride for the past five years, took time out from his Salty Heaven world tour to attend. Accompanied by Theotokos, Luka closed the conference Sunday afternoon with a chant specially written for the occasion 'Don't be afraid of the light that shines'.

The Feile continued on Sunday evening with Siamsa na Gallimhe in the CYMS Club and, on Monday, St. Brigids Day, with a Pattern on the Curragh at 2.30pm finishing with a celebration of the living earth in music and poetry in the Japanese Gardens at 8.30pm.

Los Angeles Times - Monday, May 31, 1999

Flowering in Forgiveness - Ireland's History of Tears Feeds 'Salty Heaven', on which Luka Bloom Imagines Nightmarish Bitterness Yielding to Renewal and Reconciliation

Songs of Healing for a Tragedy 150 Years Past; Pop Music With 'Salty Heaven,' Ireland's Luka Bloom addresses the potato famine as his homeland experiences a cathartic 'reawakening'.

"History," wrote Dublin's foremost artistic son, James Joyce, "is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." For Joyce, the Ireland of 100 years ago was so steeped in bitterness, defeatism and religious narrowness born of too much tragic history that he had to escape. He decamped to the Continent and wrote in obsessive detail of the homeland he had left. Luka Bloom's excellent new album, "Salty Heaven", envisions an Ireland where tragic history need not hover like a permanent fog, where nightmares can give way to reconciliation and renewal. The album climaxes with a song called "Forgiveness". An epic at nearly nine minutes long, it begins as a dirge, balefully evoking the 19th century Irish potato famine, the source of much of that historic bitterness. But then a dancing Celtic rhythm emerges, and Bloom rises from the horror.

"Forgiveness" ends as a stirring benediction, speaking to any heart that clings to idealistic hopes for humanity - not only in Ireland, but also in the Balkans, the Middle East or any other region - meaning everywhere - plagued with historic nightmares.

For the ancient wounds still hurting
For the wrongs I've never known
For all the children left to die
Near fields where corn was grown

Like the ones who braved the ocean
In fever sheds to burn
Let all the hatred leave these shores
Never to return


Bloom, who plays a solo-acoustic show Wednesday at the Coach House, says "Forgiveness" was inspired by a cathartic "reawakening" of Irish interest in the famine of 1846-1848.

While the famine's immediate cause was a fungus that blighted Ireland's vital potato crop, callous economic policies by the nation's landowners, most of them British, turned it into an epic disaster in which, out of a population of 9 million, more than a million Irish died, and another million emigrated - many of them to die during the passage, or in impoverished conditions in America, Canada, Australia and England.

"It never was talked about. We knew it as two or three pages in a history book in school," Bloom said by telephone from his home in Dublin. "In the last five or six years, there has been an outpouring. We have been coming to terms with it.

It's taken 150 years to talk about it and openly acknowledge the impact it had on our psyche. There has been a lot of cathartic activity in Ireland, acknowledgment of the various mass graves around the country, commemorative walks. It's a cry out for letting go of the blame."

With "Forgiveness", Bloom becomes part of that process.

"There have been many songs written describing the pain and suffering of this tragic time in our history," he said. "I wanted to capture the horrendous atmosphere, the loneliness and sorrow, but I didn't want to leave people in that dark and tragic place. People can hold on to that stuff for centuries, and they do. The Irish are a very creative force in the world, but there is a sadness and sorrow that will never leave us until we let go."

A hopeful thrust permeates the album, which came out a year ago in most of the world but won't emerge here until August. Bloom, who was dropped by Warner Bros. after three strong early albums in the early 1990s yielded no breakthrough hits, said he is almost done negotiating a record deal with a solid U.S. independent label.

In a voice striking in its fervency and romanticism - there is no fashionable irony in Bloom - he sings of being transported by natural beauty, of enchanting women who warm his soul and of the musical calling that he finds redemptive.

In "The Hungry Ghost", he feels a horror from his own past - a near-fatal bout with alcoholism. The singer feels his old weakness lingering as a devouring specter but finds consolation in nature and realizes that the freedom he has won need not be lost. A similar rise from darkness takes place in "Cool Breeze", which recounts Bloom's journey to the seaside grave of Frankie Kennedy, flute player for the Irish traditional folk band Altan.

"I was standing there at the grave, fumbling for sorrow, and I started laughing in the wind, realizing [Kennedy's spirit] wasn't having any of this [expletive]. There was a beautiful feeling of appropriateness and resolution."

When it comes to his own life, Bloom says, history is on his side.

At 44, he has been a professional musician since he was 17. He began his career as Barry Moore, a struggling performer overshadowed by his older brother, Christy, one of Ireland's foremost folk singers. In 1987, he moved to New York City, assumed a new name - borrowed from Suzanne Vega's hit song "Luka" and from Leopold Bloom, the hero of Joyce's novel "Ulysses" - and saw his fortunes rise.

Bloom said the corresponding career reversal, losing his record deal at the end of 1994, was not traumatic.

"I'm too old to be disheartened by anything a record company could do," he said. "You get to a certain age and realize you do what you do no matter what's going on, and when you're fortunate enough to have a job you love, you just go on." Singing Lessons at 40 and a Triumphant Tour.

Maturity, he said, also is behind the hopeful vision of "Salty Heaven".

"Anybody who has been in the music world 27 years, it's an achievement and something to be optimistic about. If I was writing the same kind of self-pitying songs now as I was in my 20s, I would be in big trouble. [Hopeful songs] are harder to write. It's so easy to pick up the guitar when you're feeling blue and touch people's hearts.

It's harder to express [happiness] and not have it sound like a Pepsi commercial."

Learning and changing as he goes along have something to do with Bloom's outlook.

Where his previous albums were sparsely produced, "Salty Heaven" is a lush affair. Bloom said he recorded a first version with his usual, stripped-down approach, then decided the songs needed more adornment. The production team of Peter Van Hooke and Rod Argent (former keyboard player for the Zombies and Argent) outfitted it with tastefully applied strings and atmospheres.

"It was altogether a very long process, which I shan't repeat in a hurry," Bloom said. "I love the record, but it was three years of my life."

No slouch as a vocalist, Bloom nevertheless decided at age 40 to take singing lessons.

"I went through two years of regular classes, and I'm much more aware of the endless possibilities of my voice, rather than concentrating on the limitations," he said. Rather than singing to avoid pitfalls, Bloom says he now sings more freely, with greater range, power, spontaneity and confidence.

Bloom was not completely confident, however, about his recent return to performing in the United States after more than four years away. He said he was "a bit trepidatious" about how he would be received on a tour of Eastern cities with no label behind him and no new record in the stores.

"The shows all sold out, and I was very happy and amazed. There was more buzz about the shows I did in New York than when I was living there. The nice thing is, people don't forget."

It's nicer still when an artist with a history finds ways, as Bloom has, to move forward with fresh work that equals or surpasses the records that won fans' allegiance in the first place.

Luka Bloom and Kerry Getz play Wednesday at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. 8pm $15-$17. (949) 496-8930. Also Thursday with Finn McCool at the Roxy, 9009 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 8pm, $19.50 (310) 278-9457.

- Mike Boehm [Times Staff Writer]

Daily Bruin Online - 3 June 1999

MUSIC: After a five-year absence from Los Angeles, Irish folk-guitarist Luka Bloom gave a performance mixed with personality, while playing new and old favorites, and promising to fulfill requests

In full bloom

The red and blue spotlights of the Roxy revealed a simple scene June 3. Three guitars rested on their stands alongside a microphone, and a thick mass of sunflowers sat in a vase, looking out of place amidst the amplifiers and instrument cables. The reserved, seated crowd chatted amiably, sipping beer and paying no attention to the unobtrusive looking man, dressed all in black, who wandered onstage, back to the audience.

Poking at the white acoustic guitar and shuffling about, he looked like an average sound technician, making last minute adjustments to the equipment before the headliner, folk guitarist Luka Bloom, took the stage. No one acknowledged his presence, continuing to drink and relax. Once he turned to face the crowd, however, things changed in a hurry.

As the lights washed over the man, a few claps broke through the chatter, then more, then screams and soon the whole room was cheering. Smiling, the no-longer anonymous equipment tech, now revealed to be Bloom himself, strapped on a white acoustic-electric guitar and began to play. This less-than-ostentatious entrance was a sign of things yet to come.

"Get 'em, Luka, get 'em," a fan called from the back. "Alright, sir," he replied in his charming light Irish brogue.

He continued for two hours, never blowing the audience away, but instead applying a subtle touch. He had only his voice, his guitars and warm charisma to hold the attention of the crowd. As it turned out, those were all that he needed. He offered ballads one moment, protest the next, mixing both his message and his delivery. By doing so, he kept out of monotony and made each song seem fresh and new.

Selecting from a catalog that dates back two decades, Bloom breezed through the set with ease, trying both old favorites and new material from his latest project, "Salty Heaven". While he did not give the titles of the songs, he did provide amusing anecdotes for many of the tunes, which made them all the richer.

"There's nothing worse than writing a song about a complete pain in the arse, then realizing that it's a little about yourself," he grinned self-consciously, strumming the opening notes of "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself."

Though it was his singing and personality that made the show come alive, his instrumental work was what held it together. He used a wide range of effects, altering the tone of his three guitars significantly for each song. With a tap on a pedal, he changed the sound from clean and straightforward to ethereal and light, coaxing tones from everything from mandolins to pipe organs. His technique was impressive also, holding up equally well under fast and slow tempos.

Fans, long awaiting the show after Bloom's five-year absence from Los Angeles, were riveted. With outstretched legs, pleasant smiles on their lips, and eyes closed, they let the songs absorb them. As he closed the show with "You Couldn't Have Come at a Better Time", they sprang to their feet with applause, cheering until he returned for an encore. After awhile, he returned, playing a few songs before pointing to a woman to the side of the room and asking what she wanted to hear.

"Could you play 'I Believe In You'?", she asked, her slight voice cutting through the now-silent air. Bloom hesitated, seeming conflicted. "Could it be something else, please? I haven't played it in ages, and I'm afraid that I'd mess it up. I promise that I'll play it the next time I come back. I promise", he replied.

With most performers, this would seem like a stupid gimmick, but Bloom sounded so genuine in his speech, it was impossible to dismiss as a mere stage trick. He instead settled on a cover of LL Cool J's "I Need Love".

Though American rap and Irish folk don't normally go hand in hand, Bloom nailed the song dead on. A longtime favorite of his live sets, the lyrical blend of sex and romance was a perfect way to end the evening. He performed a few more songs, but none could top the passionate treatment of "I Need Love".

He finished, he thanked fans and disappeared backstage, leaving a wholly contented crowd. Even if it's another five years before his next local appearance, it's a safe bet that they'll be back, hungry for more.

- Brent Hopkins

Philadelphia CityPaper.Net - critic pick|rock/pop - September 9-16, 1999

Luka Bloom

Luka Bloom is a guy who considers himself "a performing artist who records, not a studio artist who tours to support the record." The attitude explains the spare production on past albums, often mimicking his live show.

But if you've heard the frankly lush production of the juicy, 44-year-old Irish heartthrob's soon-to-be-released Salty Heaven (Shanachie), you may wonder if he's going to beef up his live show as well.

"You're talking to the band," Bloom says on the phone, laughing, promising that he will not attempt to recreate the studio sound on the road. Bloom had jumped at the chance to work with Rod Argent and Peter Van Hooke, figuring it was time to learn the arts 'n' crafts of the studio. So while the sound of Salty Heaven is different, Bloom’s attitude remains the same. He doesn't mind challenging the middle-of-the-road folks' preconceived notions, hoping to inspire thought and growth. "The Shape of Love to Come" boldly challenges us to look to Ireland's St. Bridget for confirmation that religion can occur outside a stone-and-stained-glass church setting. On "Forgiveness" he sets the scene of the Famine, challenging his countrymen to both forgive and remember. Don't lose track of history, he counsels, but do forgive and invest hostile energy in your own projects.

Though his magnetic charm has won him a devoted following in America, he was glad, recently, to discover that the appeal goes beyond looks. A Chicago gig earlier this year, ending a five-year absence from the states, drew 50 people from an informal chat list alone. "They actually have lives!" he jokes again. "I was kind of disappointed to learn that they had more to think about than speculating what color of underpants I’m wearing today!"

- Mary Armstrong

Luka Bloom, Mon., Sept. 13, 8:30 p.m., Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St., 215-928-0978,

Borders Online - September 1999

Luka Bloom: Salty Heaven

By Monique Montibon

In the mid '70s, a young musician named Barry Moore struggled to emerge from the shadow of his brother, legendary Irish folk singer Christy Moore. After four albums and several years of trying to forge his own identity as a songwriter in Ireland, he moved to New York in 1988 for a fresh start. On the plane ride over, he decided to rename himself Luka Bloom, after the protagonist of Suzanne Vega's song, "My Name is Luka", and James Joyce's alter ego, Leopold Bloom. He established residencies at Dylan's in Washington DC, and at the Red Lion in New York. His memorable songs, engaging performances, and unusual style of playing guitar caught the attention of Reprise Records, which in turn led to a recording contract and three critically acclaimed albums. "Riverside" set the tone for his modern, folk sound. "Acoustic Motorbike" continued that tradition, and featured a rather sensual version of LL Cool J's "I Need Love", one of the most popular requests at his live shows. "Turf", which Bloom recorded alone in a darkened room, captured the energy and intensity of his live performances. Around the time Turf was released, Bloom moved back to Ireland. His latest album, Salty Heaven, features lush arrangements that accentuate his passionate vocals.

Bloom recently stopped by the NetCafe to discuss his new record and his return to America.

- I really enjoyed the new album.

Luka Bloom: Thank you!

- It's a bit of a departure from your earlier albums, which were mostly just you and a guitar. This one includes some wonderful string arrangements by Rod Argent. How did that relationship come about?

Luka Bloom: This is very strange how all this came about, really. I never intended this to be such a produced record. I intended it to be quite a simple record, and it ended up being the most complicated thing I've ever done in my life, mainly because when I recorded my performances of the songs, it felt incomplete to me. I loved the songs, but I felt [the record] just wouldn't work, and I realized that I needed the experience of a producer to help me. So it took about six months for me to locate Peter Van Hooke, who was Van Morrison's drummer for ten years and became a producer. He had this partnership with Rod Argent, where Peter is the producer of the record and Rod does string arrangements, plays piano, has an overall look at the songs. So they're a good little team. And having heard what they did to that first Tanita Tikaram record, I thought these guys might be able to help, and that's how it all came about.

- What have they brought out in your music?

Luka Bloom: I'd like to think that on some of the songs they have brought out the sense of rhythm that's pretty intrinsic to my songs, which people experience when [they] see me live, but isn't always apparent on my records. I think that there's a certain kind of a groove in existence in Salty Heaven that's consistent throughout the record that is missing from my previous records. I have it in myself, but I've never been able to translate in on record, and that's the challenge of a producer. I'd like to think that that's one of the things they brought out. Also, in the way that Peter and Rod produced the record, I'd like to think they brought out the songs. I'd like to think that they brought out a certain quality that's in the songs that you don't often necessarily hear when you're a guy on [your] own with a guitar. It's always good to have an objective ear. It's not just good, it's crucially important. The best actors in the world need good directors. And usually it's a great director [who] brings out the best in the actor. Most of the great actors when asked about a movie will instantly begin to talk about the director.

- You have a great voice that was complemented particularly well by these fuller arrangements...

Luka Bloom: Thank you!

- Sure! How do you work on your vocal technique?

Luka Bloom: Well, it's funny that you're saying this to me, because after making Salty Heaven, I began to take singing lessons. And since Salty Heaven was recorded in '96, I feel like my voice has been completely transformed. But I think what happened is that over the years I've been developing a style of singing unconsciously, and I was coming into it with Salty Heaven, and I just wanted to expand on it and enlarge it. I made a conscious decision to try and find the truth in every song, and the simplicity in every song. Every journey I make with my singing is a journey to simplicity. I want to find the direct path to the audience's ear, and if there's any work that I do in my singing it's in that area. I'm only really beginning to discover my voice. I'm only beginning to feel in any way confident about my voice. Salty Heaven is possibly the first record I made that focused on my voice, because I always in the past attempted to hide a little bit behind my big guitar sound. I don't know if you've ever seen me live.

- I have, yes.

Luka Bloom: Well, you know my guitar sound, and it's pretty big. Salty Heaven was the first record I made where people said to me, "Well why don't you really try and bring out your voice?" And we did that with this record, but subsequent to that, I've begun to really, really focus on my singing, and the next record is much more about my singing than it is my guitar playing. So the next record I make might not be quite as produced as Salty Heaven, but it will be much, much more about my voice than any of my records.

- One of the things that has made your records very unique is the overall sound of your guitar playing. How did that develop? It's strikingly different.

Luka Bloom: In the mid '80s I went through a tragic period of being in a band that was one of 5,000 bands in Dublin that was going to be the next U2. That was the bad news. The good news was that from it I learned how to "rock out" a bit, as you say in America. [Laughs.] Prior to that I was very much a finger-picking folkie who hid behind his guitar. But that couple of years with the band taught me that I could have more fun if I performed and expressed myself a bit more openly. I realized after a couple of years that I just didn't like the band format. I felt it wasn't coming together. And so, from about 1986 on, I decided to explore the possibilities of a guitar sound that was big enough and strong enough and bold enough that I could perform in rock arenas on my own. And I've really managed to achieve that, particularly in Europe. Now during the summertime I play festivals with up to 60,000 people, and very often everybody else on the bill is a band and I'm the only solo artist. It's really enjoyable. And it's given me this broad working life where I can perform in small clubs, big clubs, theaters and big fields, and it's all really enjoyable.

- Your shows are always incredible. What do you enjoy most about playing live?

Luka Bloom: I think it's the relationship. I use the word very deliberately because it's the possibilities of the relationship between myself, my songs, and the people who hear and then respond, and are affected by the songs. Particularly if you walk on stage in a place where you've never been before. Currently, on this tour for example, I'm playing some places I've never played before. I have a body of songs now from all the records, and from stuff that I've just recently written, and I'm bringing the material to people. It's that challenge initially, you know, it's like meeting somebody for the first time and the excitement that can take place in the first hour or two of a conversation with somebody that you've just connected with. That's what it is about live performance that moves me.

- Are you doing a lot of touring in support of Salty Heaven?

Luka Bloom: Well, I don't really tour to support albums, I just do gigs when I feel like it. [Laughs.] I'm afraid I have a slightly atypical career going on here. [Salty Heaven] was released in Holland and Belgium and Ireland 16 months ago. I'm on tour at the moment here and I'm just having fun.

- Why did it take so long to come out in the U.S.?

Luka Bloom: I was signed up with Sony for the world, and Columbia in America passed on it. It took me six months to find the right label, so it's been a long struggle to get the record released in America. But I'm very happy with Shanachie because it's a label that cares about music and there are good people there.

- Particularly in the past, you've touched upon elements of all kinds of music while maintaining a folk sensibility. In what way has leaving New York and moving back to Ireland affected your songwriting?

Luka Bloom: What New York did for me was open my mind to possibilities, to musical possibilities, creative possibilities. I moved back to Ireland and I tried to bring the New York mentality home with me. I think that moving back home, I've continued to listen to music from all over the world, in fact even more so, and I continue to be influenced by music from around the world. In some ways, more and more I want to tap into the influence that this so-called "world music" is having on people. I think that it is one of the exciting developments of recent times, that I'm getting to hear people from Africa, I'm getting to hear people from North Africa, from India, and this music is really affecting me, and it's affecting the way I write my songs. It's opening up parts of me to myself, which may sound a bit strange, but I'm just discovering new possibilities in my music all the time. I think you can sense that to some extent on the rhythms of Salty Heaven. The next record is even more open in that sense.

- Is there anything in particular that you've been enjoying?

Luka Bloom: I'm listening to a lot of music from North Africa. Not necessarily a lot of music but particular artists, like this guy Abdelli, who is a very beautiful Algerian singer/songwriter who was sort of discovered in Brussels, and he lives in Brussels now. He made a record on Real World, which is just stunningly beautiful. It is an interesting time in music. I think that I'm discovering artists all the time who are experimenting. I just got this record yesterday by this Indian guy who's living in England. He describes himself as a British Hindu. His name is Nitin Sawhney, and it's a new CD, and it's very beautiful. I just got the new Terry Callier, I like that. You know, having said that, most of what I tend to listen to is along the lines of Miles Davis, and Ben Webster and some of the jazz heads, but I like some reggae. Singers, as well. I love singers. I love singers who challenge me to look at the way I sing and develop it.

- And who might they be?

Luka Bloom: The usual suspects: Ella. Billie. Chet. [Laughs.] Nina. You don't need second names here. And Van, of course.

- Going back to the album, you wrote "Cool Breeze", which is one of my favorite songs on the album, about Frankie Kennedy of Altan...

Luka Bloom: Frankie was more to me than just a musician. He also was one of the great characters of Irish music. He was a very young man when he died, but Frankie had a really remarkable spirit, and obviously in his partnership with Mairead [Ni Mhaonaigh], they were a very unique team. It was a very visible musical love affair and it was very beautiful to behold. The first time I saw Frankie and Mairead together was, I think 1978, at a little festival in Ballyshannon, in County Donegal. And my first thought was, "My God, she's so beautiful!" And my second thought was, "My God, he's so lucky!" I became very friendly with Frankie and I know Mairead very well. I'm very proud of Mairead, who recently just got married again, which I'm very happy about. Frankie had incredible optimism. He was one of these people who had that magnetic personality which instantly endears people to him. And he's also one of those people whose music has continued to grow after he died. But the reason I wrote the song was that I was on tour in Germany when Frankie died and I wanted to cancel my tour because I was so devastated, but of course you can't do that, you just go out and you do your gig and you do the best you can. And it was in September when he died, and the following January, they had this Frankie Kennedy memorial weekend in Donegal and it's an annual event now. And I went to it, and that was going to be my moment to visit Frankie's grave. I went there feeling very sorrowful and feeling almost a sense of foreboding, of visiting the scene of someone's passing. You feel a sense of great loss. But when I got to his grave -- I mean, his grave is right on the edge of the Atlantic. It's overlooked by Mount Errigal, which is covered in snow. The whole thing was so beautiful that I stood there and literally, the song describes it, [waited] for tears. And I just found myself breaking up laughing. I started to laugh, and I said, "This is f**cking ridiculous! I can't be sad about this! This is ridiculous!" And I had a great sense of his laughter, and I haven't felt sad since about Frankie dying.

- That's a great story.

Luka Bloom: It's the story of the song. I'm glad you like it.

- In light of the fact that you've moved back to Ireland, do you still find people comparing your music to you brother's, or do you feel that they're more accepting of the fact that you've established your own identify as an artist?

Luka Bloom: It'll always be an issue as long as I live in Ireland, so it's not something that's a problem for me. I think going to America and working as Luka Bloom was a very practical thing to do, and it's given me a working life for myself independent of my family. But when I go back home, you know, when you're in Ireland, family is family. It's a small country, everybody knows who you are. So the fact of the matter is, if I have number one hits all over the world, in Ireland I'll still be Christy Moore's brother. And that's okay.

- Any final thoughts?

Luka Bloom: When you leave a country like America and move back home, you don't assume that people are going to (pardon the French) give a sh*t. So four years later you release a record in America, and people are contacting me and people are asking, "When are you coming touring?" And it's nice to know that some people remember and others discover you for the first time. So I'm very happy that I can resume a working life in America, I really am. I'm looking forward to touring again in March.

- Monique Montibon - NetCafe Editor
© 1999 by Borders Online, Inc.

The Irish Eyes - Issue 08 - November 1999

Luka to Bloom in Paris

"I can resist everything except temptation" quips Luka Bloom in true Wilde spirit, which is why every year or so this Irish singer/songwriter célèbre, chooses to disappear to a remote part of Ireland and write his inimitable songs. 'Stadium folk for the bedroom', is how he enigmatically describes his unique brand of music, and in November the charismatic Luka will be transporting his boudoir to Paris, after a break of 7 years, to play two concerts at the Hôtel du Nord (22nd and 23rd Nov.).

Luka Bloom, aka Barry Moore, younger brother of the legendary Christy, made his touring debut in the early 70s, playing support with the acclaimed Planxty, starring his older brother. Then in 1987, he left Ireland for the USA, and re-invented himself as Luka Bloom. "I wasn't comfortable in my old self", he confesses, "so I adopted a new name, something memorable but not necessarily Irish. In fact it's totally pretentious, with no Joycean connotations whatever, it has as much literary significance as Bono or the Edge!" The Luka part came from the Suzanne Vega song. Since then, he has recorded four excellent studio albums each charting a particular period of his life. His first three albums "Riverside" (1990), "The Acoustic Motorbike" (1992) and "Turf" (1994), all released on the Reprise label are written from his experience of living in America.

In 1995, Luka moved back to Ireland. "It felt right and still does, even though the Celtic Tiger has brought out a different side to the Irish people. I feel it's important for them to remember the value of community spirit which has always been the foundation of Irish life."

In 1998, he released his latest album, the excellent "Salty Heaven", on the Sony label, to popular and critical acclaim. Luka chooses personal themes for his songs and "Salty Heaven" covers subjects from Luka's private battle with drink in "Hungry Ghost" to the controversy surrounding the French nuclear tests in the South Pacific in 1996, with his song "Rainbow Warrior". "It was incredible how people all over Ireland were in uproar about this nuclear testing happening thousands of miles away. I really felt proud to be Irish, part of a people expressing solidarity with a community at the other side of the planet against this moment of folly. "Rainbow Warrior" is a song about people who care about the planet. The people of Inisheer in the Aran Islands, actually twinned with one of the islands in the Mururoa Atoll and raised money to erect a sculpture, as their symbolic protest against the 'essais nucléaires'." In the song, Luka directly addresses his 'amis français' but insists "no, of course I do not blame the French people, but their government, for this testing done in their name". Salty Heaven also includes the powerful "Holy Ground", where Luka sings of the importance of the sacred places of Ireland, like the Hill of Tara, where he feels the awesome power of history and tradition. He talks of 'being charged with fantastic energy' when walking there, and it is this sense of attachment and connection with his Irish heritage which keeps him in Ireland.

So what of romantic attachments with Paris? "Ah now, there is a story there", Luka laughs, "but in fact it's all about unrequited love, a beautiful woman from Geneva, a lost weekend, a mislaid telephone number and she was ex-directory! C'est la vie!"

Luka deals easily with the ubiquitous question about his relationship with Christy. "We were brothers long before we were famous, and we relate on that level. If people abroad connect with Ireland through the music of Christy, then that's a beautiful phenomenon." He has written several of Christy's songs, including "The City of Chicago" but he does not specifically write songs with his brother in mind. "Every now and again, I write a song and I think, Jaysus, Christy might like that, but it’s never intentional." Luka continues, "when Christy retired in 1996, I was surprised at how emotional I felt about it, and now with his return, I am equally emotional, especially since his new album Travellers went to number 1 in early October. He's put so much into his music, he deserves every accolade and reward."

Luka Bloom likewise, is a man who has put much of his soul into his songs and music. When asked about his plans for the future, the affable Luka apologises for seeming trite but insists, "for the future I really, really hope that I enjoy the next gig, it's just that I'm very focused on each performance." It is this 'earnest' approach which makes his live performances so legendary and his ability to achieve a 'sitting-room intimacy' in a large venue is awesome.

This temptation is definitely irresistible. A night in Luka's boudoir - it should be Wilde!

- Mick Walsh
© Irish Eyes -

FolkWorld - December 1999

Luka's Audiences

An Interview with Luka Bloom

The Irish singer/songwriter Luka Bloom toured once again Germany in November. Marcus Metz went to meet him for an interview at his last gig in Germany, on Thursday, 11/11/99 at the Tollhaus in Karlsruhe.

Where have you been recently?

- "This tour started in Oslo on the 3rd of October. We were in Oslo and Copenhagen. Then we did about eight shows in Germany. And then I went in and did two weeks in Belgium and two weeks Holland - and then back into Germany again. So it's nice. I continue on till the 1st of December."

Are you content with the audience?

- "I seem to have a core audience in Germany that's not necessarily very big. I have that interesting relationship with Germany: I've never got things right. When I've had a great promoter I didn't have a great relationship with the record company. Earlier on when I had problems with the promoter I had a good record company. But next year I'm going to get it right. This is very difficult. It's very important to have a good relationship with people you work with particularly in Germany because it's a very big country and a lot of people want to come here. But I'm very fortunate in that. I seem to have a core audience. I coming to places like to Karlsruhe tonight. I've never played here before and there'll be 250 people here which - I think - it's amazing. So I just keep coming back in the hope one time I come back everything will be in place. I have a great promoter in Karsten Jahnke but the next time I come I am going to pay more attention to Germany."

Do you think the audience in Ireland is different?

- "Oh yeah, yeah! It's completely different. It's a even a difference in the audience in Holland - never mind Ireland. I find it amazing. It's a bit more predictable when you tour America. Cities don't change so much. But playing in Amsterdam is completely different from playing in Hamburg which is completely different from playing in Munich. I mean it's not just the difference Hamburg audience and Munich audience. I mean people are the same and they feel similarly. But just the way they react is different. There's a phenomenon in audiences in Germany that I find really amazing. There's a certain kind of warmth, it's a surprising warmth. In Holland and in Australia and in Ireland I'm used to people shouting all the time. But in Germany I find audiences really, really listening to you. But the way they respond is with this long applause at the end of a song. People don't shout or whistle so much but with this applause that sometimes goes on for ages (laughs) and you just have to stand there and wait for it to end... It's very kind actually."

You just released an EP - it's a duet with you brother (i.e. Christy Moore)...

- "Yeah, it's a song that I wrote last year which I wanted to record with my brother, and I did it last May. We really just recorded it. I wanted to have something for fun for summer in Ireland, it's like a summertime song for Ireland. But Karsten Jahnke liked it so much he wanted me to let some people hear it. That's no big deal, it's just something for fun."

But this is the first time you did some recording with him...?

- "No, I played on a record of his in 1981."

But not a real duet ...?

- "No, never. That's the first time. That's true. First time we've done that, that's correct. It's difficult for us to do anything together 'cause we're quite different and our style of playing is different and the style of my singing is different. So it's not easy for us to get together in studio and for something really good to happen. When we get together at home with the family we sing songs together. But it's not a natural chemistry for us musically. I knew it would work with him playing bodhrán, drum and me singing, playing guitar and he sang a bit also. It's good fun!"

Will that be on the new album?

- "Yeah! I don't know if he'll be on it but the song will be."

- Marcus Metz

© Rena Bergholz - Luka Bloom Page