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Luka Bloom - Before Sleep Comes
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Celtic Connection - CD Reviews - April 2004

Big Sky Records

As a child, who didn't love being snuggled in bed with a loved one to sing you to sleep? The delicious feeling of hanging on the cusp of sleep until the music carried you over. As adults, we now have a champion of insomniacs everywhere in Luka Bloom and his latest release, 'Before Sleep Comes'. While most performers would be offended if someone fell asleep listening to their music, Bloom expects you to!

CD review by Cindy Reich >>

JigTime - Music at your Fingertips - April 2004

Luka Bloom shows his Gentle Side
Before Sleep Comes

Sometimes adversity brings out brilliance in artists and that is definitely true with the latest offering from Irish singer/songwriter Luka Bloom 'Before Sleep Comes'. Recovering from a bout of tendonitis earlier this year, Luka has discovered a soft and beautiful style of playing that brings a gentleness to the music on this CD that will delight and relax the listener...... Singing in a whispery style that draws the listener in, Luka weaves the way to dreamland with images of love, beauty, water and nature. The intoxicating quality of Camomile carrying cares away and urging the listener towards sleep....... The crisp guitar work, combined with the seamless inclusion of sounds of nature brings a beauty and serenity to the CD, which mirrors the maturity of both Luka's playing and songwriting after many years of experience.

Alice Farrell

News Four - Sandymount, Irishtown, Ringsend Community Newspaper - April 2004

Luka's Lullaby

The directions Luka Bloom had given me for his house in Blacktrench, outside Naas, were concise and exact, as simple and direct as his songs on his new album 'Before Sleep Comes'...

His new album, 'Before Sleep Comes' is yet another change of direction. The idea for this album resulted from a recurrence of tendonitis and another later problem that resulted in an operation for his throat. "I was only able to play very gentle things on my little Spanish guitar and I grew to really enjoy it. I just went down the local Mill where there's a little studio and recorded it over two nights at 11 or 12 at night when everything was very quiet. I deliberately went in there when my voice was tired because I wanted the thing to be authentic, to be very dreamy."

The album is a combination of soothing instrumental tunes such as 'Nora', familiar ballads and whispery original songs such as 'Camomile'. The calm soothing quality of the songs is like having your head caressed before sleep takes over. Luka puts it more poetically in the song 'Before Sleep Comes': "there is a moment of surrender, just before sleep comes, I turn over my life's business to the God of the setting sun."

At twenty-eight minutes long the album is just the right length to take the listener to the land of nod.

Nicola McMahon

Volkskrant - 15 April 2004

Luka Bloom - Before Sleep Comes
Big Sky Records

Though they still sound sympathetic, Luka Bloom's records over the past few years lacked the urgency of Riverside, his 1990 breakthrough album. Changing record companies and producers did nothing to benefit his work. While it really is very simple: Luka Bloom should just sing and play the guitar. Everything apart from that is nonsense.

The Irish Bard must have realised that himself when he carefully began to sing and play some songs after an illness. It was hard because of an injured hand, but maybe that is why the nine pieces on Before Sleep Comes have the necessary urgency again. It might be the beginning of his resurrection. In any case, this album released independently has great power of expression...

Gijsbert Kramer
Translated by Jolande Hibels

Rotterdams Dagblad - Thursday 15 April 2004

Luka Bloom at his gentlest

He went back to Ireland in order to be able to make a lot of noise. But what appears now is a CD with the appropriate title Before Sleep Comes. Luka Bloom at his gentlest: how beauty can grow out of necessity.

Rotterdam - Pain of the heart is a common ailment amongst songwriters. Pain in the hand you don't hear very often. But it is the pain in his right hand that drove Luka Bloom to a series of sensitive songs.

'Before Sleep Comes' may have been born out of necessity, it is not the case that Luka has neglected this subdued site until now. "It may be the case that I have grown into this", he admits. "But without really noticing. I have never really allowed myself to really be this quiet. It may be a cliché but no less true for me: this is a new beginning. I've always thought only of the next CD and of performing. I was a performer first, while now I am more of a songwriter. Writing is my first priority now, I write more songs than ever before.".... As rich and powerful as he can make steel strings sing on stage, as simple and haunting does the Spanish guitar flow on 'Before Sleep Comes'. As dynamic as he can make his voice sound in a song like 'Delirious', as warm does it sound in Bloom's adaptation of the traditional 'The Water is Wide'. The opening song, 'My Singing Bird' he even sings in such a dark voice you might think you hear Christy Moore, his big brother, legendary in folk circles...

Interview by Dick Laning >>
Translated by Jolande Hibels

Het Parool - 29 April 2004

* * * *
Luka Bloom - Before Sleep Comes

(Big Sky Records)

At first sight a record that can be described with a sentence that includes the words "Ireland", "traditional folk songs", and "restful" is not something you will run to the shop to buy. Before you know it you are up to your ears in Celtic mist or some other compilation album on which they checked to see how many esoteric Dolphins could be squeezed into a bagpipe. For an artist to write songs and to play them as he writes them because he is suffering from tendonitis hardly seems a recommendation either. And you really need to be in the mood for an album with nine lullabies.

But actually Before Sleep Comes by Irish troubadour Luka Bloom is an at times really breathtakingly beautiful album.

In the course of two nights he whispersang them into the microphone - four original songs and five traditionals of the calibre of Nora and The Water Is Wide. While he touched the strings of his Spanish guitar just enough to make them vibrate beautifully and lines passed by like "I watched a heron watching me / and thought I heard him say, just be still now / wait awhile and let life come to you / just be still now / all your dreams are on the breezes passing through." You might call it soft. And the song Camomile is mainly about camomile tea, that is true. But such a wonderful way to doze off.

Dirk-Jan Arensman
Translated by Jolande Hibels

Irish Voice - 6 May 2004

Luka Bloom's Sweet Dreams

The disc has been a staple in this reviewer's CD alarm clock for the bulk of the weekend, and I can tell you that it is the perfect companion as the sandman comes-a-callin'. With songs like 'Camomile', 'Be Still Now', and 'Before Sleep Comes', it's not hard to see what this disc is all about.

"I feel like he's singing next to me," said the drowsy missus tonight as I typed this review in the bed beside her. She's got a point. The hushed intimacy is a joy to behold; with its simple packaging and non-existent promotion, it feels like Luka has made a record just for your nightstand. "This is a CD of non-performance," he writes in the liner notes. "Its purpose is to help bring you closer to sleep, our sometimes elusive night friend."

"I would climb the high high tree and would rob the wild bird's nest / I'd bring back my singing bird / to the arms that I love best," he whispers on 'My Singing Bird'. Anyway, Bloom successfully avoids the soggy premise of some New Age recordings to make a melodious whisper brimming with personality. The acoustic plucking of the traditional tune 'She Moved Through The Fair' transforms the melody into a Spanish dreamscape. It is one of the many instrumental interludes in this nine song CD, and it is the crowning achievement on this beautiful collection.

Moore makes the same impact as his brother with his hushed phrasing, indicating that Bloom might have taken a page from the back half of his older brother's songbook......... On tracks like 'My Singing Bird' and 'I'll Walk Beside You', it is hard to tell the difference between the two brothers. Age might have finally caught up with Luka Bloom, but he wears it well; the instrument in his throat is displaying a seasoned depth to match the thoughtful, gentle strumming that makes Before Sleep Comes a quiet masterpiece...
Sweet dreams!

The Irish Times - 25 June 2004

* * * *
Luka Bloom - Before Sleep Comes

Big Sky Records

Luka's been chillin'. This nine-song collection is a distillation of life chez Bloom in recent times; if he's not careful, he'll have every stray in search of peace of mind flocking to his doorstep.

Rarely does quietude translate so powerfully on record, and rarer still is the bottling of an artist's personal happiness as successful as this beautifully somnambulant album. Swapping his trademark frenetic playing style for the forensic demands of a Spanish guitar, Luka fuels this gentle mix of original and traditional tunes (including a finely understated reading of 'The Water is Wide' and an even finer snapshot of the twilight zone that is the title track) with minimum intervention beyond strings and larynx. One for the witching hour.

Siobhán Long - news and reviews - 17 August 2004

Luka Bloom - Before Sleep Comes
Music from Bar None Records

Luka Bloom's music has always had a dreamy quality.... Written in the throes of tendonitis, when he could manage nothing more than "very gentle picking on my Spanish guitar", the CD plays like a waft of perfume, or the waving of a bed of flowers in a breeze. Its purpose, he writes in his liner notes, "is to help bring you closer to sleep, our sometimes elusive night-friend". Such preciousness gives me the heebie-jeebies; fortunately I'm not reviewing liner notes. The music on this CD is a lovely listen, especially if sleep - or a peaceful mood - is your goal.

To match the gentleness of his guitar on these tracks, Bloom softens his trademark sexy baritone, singing (it seems) closer to the microphone than usual, with a very intimate effect. The harplike sound of the unfiltered guitar is especially effective in the instrumental covers of the traditionals 'She Moved Through the Fair' and 'Nora'.

His languid, slightly Donovan-like vocal delivery on these quiet recordings works as well on the traditional 'The Water is Wide' - a favorite folk song of mine - as on the originals like 'Camomile', 'She Sings Her Songs With Open Eyes', and the title track. Now and then, as in the sung part of 'I'll Walk Beside You', Bloom seems to be just going through the motions - or to be on the verge of falling asleep himself - but since the CD by its nature doesn't actually have any momentum, momentum isn't lost, the mood never spoiled...

Jon Sobel

Musicangle - reviews - 3 September 2004

Luka Bloom - Before Sleep Comes
Bar None BRNCD161 CD

Usually an aggressive Irish folkie with a penchant for some mad strumming, Mr. Bloom delivers a real snoozer on this 9 song set. If it puts you to sleep Bloom will be happy, for that is his intent. After suffering a painful bout of tendonitis last year, Bloom was forced to curtail his performing and playing, managing only soft strums and gentle picking on a Spanish guitar. He became enamored of the soft style after a while, and began writing songs to capture the mood, singing them in a near whisper.... An album of "non-performance" is how he characterizes it in the liner notes, but that's hardly fair. Instead you'll find the performances intimate and the tunes soothing-even if the usual "new age" snooze music infuriates you.

The traditional 'My Singing Bird', opens and sets the mood, followed by 'Before Sleep Comes', which gets down to the business at hand. If that doesn't knock you out, perhaps the next track, the familiar 'She Moved Through The Fair', which Bloom picks with great grace and skill, tendonitis notwithstanding, accompanied by birds-in-a-field sound effects, will. 'I'll Walk Beside You', the set's only cover is a comforting number that can be taken as secular or as a religious message of faith.

And so the calmative songs flow until you either doze off, or at the very least reach a state of welcome relaxation. The warm, intimate production and sound aid in setting the mood, though the bottom end sometimes sounds almost muddy to the point of distortion. If you're not in a state of deep relaxation when Bloom finishes 'The Water is Wide', you need something stronger, like, say, Ambien.

An unlikely find in a stack of new noise that has offered me a respite from a stressful period. At 27 minutes, it's more of an EP than a full set, but since the purpose is to put you to sleep, that's plenty.....

Michael Fremer

All Music Guide - review - October 2004

* * * *
Before Sleep Comes
Luka Bloom

Bar/None Records

Those seeking a new installment from the fiery guitar and passionate voice of Irish guitarist, singer, and songwriter Luka Bloom will be astonished to encounter Before Sleep Comes. This is a nine-song, 27-minute collection of tunes recorded for the express purpose of capturing the moments just before sleep comes, and perhaps enhancing its arrival. According to his liner notes, Bloom came upon these soft, whispery songs while being afflicted with a particularly nasty bout of tendinitis. Having given up the road for a period to recover, he picked up a nylon-stringed Spanish guitar and began working out songs by gently fingerpicking them so as not to aggravate his condition. Then he began singing lyrics in a soft, halting manner to accompany the melodies he'd written, realizing before long he had come up with a selection of material that stood is sharp contrast to the rest of his catalog and needed to document it.

Recorded late at night while tired with a sole engineer, Before Sleep Comes is a small cache of original and cover tunes that meander gently, without insistence toward the point of stillness. There is just enough in these melodies and harmonics to hold on to - nothing extra - and the tunes themselves are of a piece. There is no place in them, in this space where the ethereal edge of consciousness moves between two worlds, to truly differentiate from one another, for one to stand out any more than another. That said, these are beautiful pieces, all of them. Stunning really for their restraint, their slippery grace and elegance. His reading of the traditional 'She Moved Through the Fair' comes off as a vivid dream, and there are bird sounds recorded naturally from the early morning. 'Be Still Now' is a lullaby that could have been written hundreds of years ago for all of its minor key, near medieval modality. Likewise, his readings of other traditional songs such as 'My Singing Bird' and 'Nora' are timeless as well. Only his moving version of 'The Water Is Wide' rises from the ether to greet the gray light of dawn. Its quiet dignity and spacious, unhurried simplicity is almost unsettling.

This will be an anomaly in Bloom's catalog to be sure, and may be misunderstood. But taken on its own terms, this small recording is a tiny gem that offers plenty for anyone willing to accept it on its own terms.

Thom Jurek

Rockzillaworld Magazine - October 2004

Luka Bloom
Before Sleep Comes

Bar/None Records

Luka Bloom has created the quintessential soundtrack for the wee hours of the morning with his latest release Before Sleep Comes. Though Bloom earned a reputation in folk music circles with his trademark acoustic ballads, this meditative new album finds the artist exploring the sounds of near silence.

Bloom, a native of Newbridge in County Kildare, Ireland and brother of famed folk singer Christy Moore, put together this collection of songs after being treated for tendonitis. During his treatments, Bloom musical ability was hindered, allowing him to only pick his Spanish guitar softly. As the physical therapy progressed and Bloom regained strength, he found that he enjoyed the quiet style and stuck with it. The result is a stunning and somber collection of original songs and traditional folk ballads.

Reminiscent of Turf, Bloom's best album to date, Before Sleep Comes takes the listener on a quiet journey into the night with the reassuring tones of his acoustic guitar and his subdued vocals. The production team of Mark Gavin and Brian Masterson did a wonderful job of taking Bloom's guitar and voice and making a full and warm sound.

The stark beauty of the traditional Irish folk song 'My Singing Bird' starts the album and sets the tone for the rest of the songs. While all nine tracks on the album share the same dreamy sound, Bloom has also done a masterful job of conveying the images of relaxation and sleep on his original compositions.

'Be Still Now' is an excellent example of Bloom's descriptive powers with lines like:

    I walked along the western shore one bright November day
    I watched the heron watching me and thought I heard him say
    Just be still now, wait a while and let life come to you
    Just be still now, all your dreams are on the breezes passing through.

Not only is the listener lulled into a dreamlike state by the music, but the lyrics convey a scene that could be pulled directly from the land of slumber. I am always looking for an album to listen to as I drift off to sleep and Luka Bloom has created a classic. Before Sleep Comes is a beautiful and haunting assemblage of adult lullabies that will be cherished by both insomniacs and music lovers for a long time.

Greg Yost

Free Times - Columbia's Free Weekly - Music - Oct 27-Nov 2, 2004

* * * *
Luka Bloom
Before Sleep Comes

(Bar None)

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old saying goes. With Irish pop-folkie Luka Bloom, the need to release an album of quiet near-lullabies arose when a recurring bout with tendonitis last year forced him to play gently, or not play at all. Though the medical condition has passed with the help of physical therapy, Bloom was intrigued enough by the whispery songs he was writing during this time that he recorded them.

Featuring several of the original songs Bloom wrote as a result of his temporary handicap and a few traditional songs appropriate to the exercise, the disc is a dreamlike affair that maintains a mood in keeping with its title - at times, Bloom's singing and playing is so understated it sounds like he could nod off mid-song.

Despite the relative lack of dynamics in their delivery, 'Singing Bird' and 'Camomile' are in keeping with Bloom's history of emotionally invested balladry dating back to 'Gone to Pablo', from his 1990 American debut, Riverside. 'The Water is Wide' and 'She Moved Through the Fair' are inspired traditional choices that reflect Bloom's Irish ancestry.

In the notes, Bloom says, "This is a CD of non-performance. Its purpose is to bring you closer to sleep," and if you have ever gently picked a guitar before settling in for the night, or listened to someone play quietly around a campfire so they won't wake those already asleep in nearby tents, you have already experienced the comfortable easing into the evening hours that Bloom achieves here.

Kevin Oliver

HARP Magazine - Reviews - Nov/Dec 2004

Luka Bloom
Before Sleep Comes

Bar None

Ailing guitarists should take note of the profits brought by Luka Bloom's tendonitis. The Irish singer's affliction sidelined his six-string duties in the spring of 2003 leaving him with the option of not playing at all or exclusively so on his softer nylon-string Spanish guitar. Limited in his capabilities - "non-playing" as he'd describe it - the summer poured on, with Bloom realizing a lighter sound would be worth recording. Traditional Irish lore alternated by whispery lullabies proves unlike anything of Bloom's career, melting into the background, assured in its audiences growing lack of engagement. While the steely production triggers memories of a sweeping IMAX film, the restraint of voice, tempered by the mild plucking, like a medicated Nick Drake, fulfills its intention of guiding the listener to a dreamier state, where all pains of the wrist can be forgotten.

Zach Bloom

Irish America Magazine - Music Roundup - Dec/Jan 2005

Luka Bloom - Before Sleep Comes

In this beautiful homage to the Land of Nod, Bloom was inspired by a style of guitar playing that was forced upon him. Suffering a bout of tendonitis last year, he could no longer strum, but was only allowed to 'pluck' the acoustic guitar. This nine-song album, which includes both traditional and original songs, is the result. These soft lullabies are sung so intimately, you'd think he was there singing to you.

Louise Carroll

erasing clouds - music reviews - issue 30 - January 2005

Luka Bloom - Before Sleep Comes
Bar None Records

I've never been especially taken with the music of Irish singer-songwriter Luka Bloom; though I've heard most of the nine or so albums that's he released over the last 15 years, they all kind of swept past me without making much of an impression. Consider it a bias against too-serious or too-mellow folk music, perhaps. So it surprises me that Bloom's quietest album turns out to be his most riveting by far. Bloom describes Before Sleep Comes as "whispery songs", a direction he went in after tendonitis forced him to play his guitar more gently. And the record label dubs the album "nine songs for insomniacs" (as well as the gag-inducing "acoustic chill-out music for the soul"). "Whispery", is right - these songs are lullabies and early Sunday morning countryside walks that never cry out for your attention, they just quietly live. And as such they're beautiful, just flat-out stunning like a quiet landscape that exists gracefully on its own, without asking for anything. Bloom covers a handful of traditional songs and sings a handful of his own songs. In both cases the quietness is not only a pleasurable stylistic approach, but offers a forceful concentration of feeling. By taking things easy Bloom seems to have taken his music into a more focused zone, where emotions come across more strongly than they would have if he was singing and playing more stridently.

Dave Heaton

The Phoenix - Swarthmore College's Online Student Newspaper - January 20, 2005

Music review: Bloom and Ozark Sheiks put art over mass appeal

...When I read the press release for Before Sleep Comes I imagined that Mr. Bloom had unwittingly created a compilation of dull and unimportant songs, and that his record company was doing all it could to salvage the wreck by marketing it as a "chill-out" album. On the contrary, the circumstances of the album speak to its intentional tranquility. While suffering from aggravated tendonitis in his right hand, Mr. Bloom was forced to modify his picking style and play music on a nylon-stringed classical guitar instead of his usual harsher-sounding steel-string. It was from these conditions that his new approach to playing arose and the concept for 'Before Sleep Comes' was born. All the songs were recorded late at night, when, as Mr. Bloom puts it, "I was tired myself ".

The music presented is beautiful and, yes, tranquil. 'Before Sleep Comes' achieves exactly what Mr. Bloom intended. You don't as much listen to the songs as feel them, losing the lyrics in the rise and fall of his voice. Bloom originals like 'Be Still Now' and 'Camomile' are seamlessly intertwined with traditional Irish ballads, like 'She Moved Through the Fair' and 'The Water is Wide'.

...Both UCCPS and Luka Bloom set out to achieve very specific goals with their albums, and these goals seem more important to the performers than to the listener. Mr. Bloom sought to record a period in his life when he was forced to quiet down and go slowly; he finds a place before sleep worth preserving...... it's a lovely and sometimes exhilarating journey to take with them.

Joe Kille

Sponic Zine - Independent Music - Issue 21 - 20 March 2005

Luka Bloom
Before Sleep Comes

2004 - Bar-None - CD

Luka Bloom, a successful Irish singer-songwriter who has toured with the likes of the Cowboy Junkies, the Violent Femmes, the Hothouse Flowers, and the Pogues, suffers from tendonitis. Last year the condition became so painful, he couldn't do much more than light picking on a Spanish guitar. During his physical therapy, he refused to tear himself away from his instrument, and he continued to play. And as a glowing example of how to take a horrible situation and turn it into something beautiful, Bloom created Before Sleep Comes.

The record intends to bring listeners "closer to sleep, our sometimes elusive night-friend", as Bloom writes in the spares liner notes. Turned down low and accompanied by a dark room, warm blankets, and a comfy bed, this record can do just that. Bloom gathered nine songs, all of which come in under four and a half minutes, and he created a record with an entirely relaxing mood without the new-age cheesiness of the Pure Moods records advertised on late-night television.

Bloom incorporates self-penned ballads like 'Before Sleep Comes' and 'Camomile' with traditional Celtic songs 'My Singing Bird' and 'The Water Is Wide'. The songs are quiet, soothing, endearing and many are about sleep. Others are about love. Bloom's voice floats over a billowy acoustic guitar and sounds more like a whisper than someone singing.

The songwriter cleverly recorded the tracks late at night when he felt sleep tugging at his own eyelids in order to infuse that energy (or lack thereof - Ed.) into the record. The result is so effective I'm having trouble finishing this review. All this talk of sleep and Bloom's soft and sweet voice are making it seem much better to curl up in bed than continue pushing my pen across the page. Maybe I'll just pull up the blankets and catch a quick nap...

Katrina Martin Davenport
Rating: 4,5 / 5

Hybrid Magazine - music reviews - April 2005

Luka Bloom
Before Sleep Comes

Bar None Records

Adversity can sometimes lead to great changes and personal growth. Before Sleep Comes is definitely such a case. Luka Bloom was having a bout of severe tendonitis and couldn't play his normal steel string acoustics. So, being the ingenious Irishman that he is, he picked up his nylon string and started playing away, delving into the soft sounds that are inherent to that instrument. Upon realizing how much fun he was having exploring this tender, quieter style of songs, he decided he would gift the public with a record of the songs. Over the course of a few cold and windy nights, Luka sat at Old Mill Studios and set the tunes to tape, just him and his nylon string guitar. Thus was born Before Sleep Comes.

As one would imagine, these songs are pure beauty. From the arrangement of the traditional 'The Water Is Wide' to the Bloom penned title track, each of these songs is as perfect falling asleep music as any that has ever been found on recorded media. The tunes are soft and slow, with just a hint of sadness - the type of sadness that lulls one softly into the blessed arms of sleep. 'Before Sleep Comes' is every ounce a Luka Bloom song, with his clear baritone voice dancing smoothly over soft fingerpicked arpeggios. Luka's adaptation of the venerable 'She Moved Through The Fair' is resplendent in its simple beauty. The song is crisply picked melodies over a low drone and distant background of birds singing. 'Camomile' may well be the newest addition to the necessary lullabies that every parent and lover should know. The traditional 'Nora' is simply beautiful in this arrangement, and the oft-sung 'The Water Is Wide' is in the running for finest variation of all time.

But this album would not be complete without the closing track 'She Sings Her Songs With Open Eyes'. It is a deeply resonant track, filled with the imagery and passion that only Luka Bloom can bring to recordings. It is a joy to listen to... if one can stay awake long enough to claim the prize.

David DeVoe

© Rena Bergholz - Luka Bloom Page