Luka Bloom - Album Review

Big Sky Records

Child's Play

Innocence Luka Bloom seems to be a happy man in the world these days. Hit latest release, 'Innocence' is at it says. It explores some themes, times and places when one could lose oneself in the tall grass of summer, or the first flowers of spring, and the chaos of the world faded away. For a while. For reality does creep in on the footsteps of a few songs, but the overwhelming vibe is one of more ease, less angst. The title track is a good example.

        "I still love the smell, sweet smell of incense
        Since the prayers and the bells made complete sense
        Most of all I loved benediction
        With an innocent child's conviction"

        "Between the past and whatever the future sends
        I choose innocence"

Was it intentional, or did it just turn out that way I asked Luka, who spoke from his home outside of Dublin as he's preparing for his longest U.S. tour in some years. I asked if he chose to look for some gentle and good things at a time when the world is very unstable. "I guess so", replied Luka, "but not consciously. Apart from the instability and craziness in the world, people are bombarded with information, choices, news, images, words and noise. I have decided to seek something essentially simple and true for myself in the middle of the chaos. Works for me!"

Forgiveness is another topic close to Luka. The psyche of the Irish mind could benefit from the this trait as Bloom so eloquently outlined in his epic famine song of the same name on his Salty Heaven album. On Innocence, Luka distills forgiveness down in 'Miracle Cure':

        "..the opening fist brings forgiveness
        A wounded hand to kiss, forgiveness."

        "..I take my chance at each abyss
        And reach for my forgiveness."

This album, 'Innocence' was just released in the U.S., but has been out in Ireland and Europe for about a year. I asked Luka if the songs stay fresh when he gets to bring them to new ears. "Totally", he replied. "I decided at the start to give this record all the time it deserves to find its way and am in absolutely no rush to let it go."

There are 13 tracks plus two bonus tracks, Luka's very powerful song, 'I am not at war with anyone' and 'Doing the best I can' which Luka said was inspired by his nephew who lives with serious disability. Many of Bloom's songs come from personal stories such as the impressively simple 'Thank you for bringing me here'. The song creates an instant snapshot of a father and daughter walking the beach at Fanore in Clare. "It's a true story," said Luka. "I was walking with a friend from Belfast in Clare. He was telling me of walking the beach the night before with his eight year old daughter. As the sun goes down on the sea and the Aran Islands, she turns to him and says, Daddy, thank you for bringing me here."

Another standout song is 'No matter where you go, there you are'. Another true story about a Muslim carpenter who was driven from his home in Africa leaving friends and family behind. He wandered the world, finally ending up in Ireland, where he made little wooden boxes. There is much more to this story, but if you get the CD, you will hear Mohamed Bouhanna playing the derbuka. How has the reaction been to this song?, I asked Luka. "People love this song", said Luka, "and anyone who has any sense of being displaced knows what's going on in it." This is yet another example of Bloom's deft hand with a story and how he can weave it into a brilliant song. As he does with one of his most well known songs, 'City of Chicago', which has a new outing here.

It should also be mentioned that there are two instrumentals on this release, 'Peace on Earth' and a snippet of the traditional 'Larry Redican's Bow', where Luka is joined by Pat Collins on fiddle. Most people tend to slot Luka in the singer/songwriter category, but sometimes fail to recognize that he is a very serious student of the guitar and a superb player. It is long past the time for Bloom to include more instrumental pieces in future.

Besides Mohamed and Pat Collins, Luka is joined by the always great Joe Csibi on double bass, Eithne Ni Cathain on backing vocals and fiddle and Ray Fean on percussion. Special mention must be made of the exquisite soprano sax and clarinet playing by Kenneth Edge, which lends so much atmosphere to the recording.

Luka Bloom seems to be much more content with himself these days and even he will admit that he has come to an acceptance "life on life's terms" as he put it. As his longest tour in the U.S. in many years is set to begin, Luka is already anticipating his trip here. "I can't wait to sing these songs in Colorado!", stated Luka. Which is another subject near and dear to Bloom's heart. Since his first appearance in Boulder in 1990, Luka has made it a stop almost every time he has toured in the U.S. What about Boulder makes it special?

Bloom replied, "The sky, the mountains, the name Colorado which rolls off like a song title, the space, the quiet, the hippy trippy taxi drivers in Boulder who talk like they're still on their way home from Woodstock. I love it all!!"

Reward the inner child. Catch Luka Bloom's guitar and word magic now on 'Innocence'. You have been notified.

-- Cindy Reich

Celtic Connection, Denver, Colorado
April 2006

Cindy Reich is a contributing writer to 'The Living Tradition', Ayrshire, Scotland
'Irish Music Magazine', Dublin, Ireland, and presents the radio music show,
'The Long Acre' on Mondays, 1pm-3pm on KRFC 88.9 FM, Fort Collins, Colorado.

© Rena Bergholz - Luka Bloom Page