Even via email from the Swiss Alps, Luka Bloom’s energy and awe are infectious.
“In 3 days I will climb 7,500 feet to a theatre in Switzerland on top of a mountain called Niesen. It will be my highest gig in Europe. I will sing so loud, you will hear me in North America.”
It’s been a long, strange trip for the 57 year-old singer-songwriter from Ireland. Born Kevin Barry Moore (younger brother to folk troubadour Christy) in Newbridge, County Kildare, he moved to the U.S. in 1987, taking a new name from the title of a Suzanne Vega song (“Luka”) and the main character in James Joyce’s epic Ulysses (“Bloom”).
“I sat with my first guitar at age 9 and felt a strange sense of homecoming. I wrote my first songs when I was 14, and did my first paid gigs in 1972 as the opening act for Planxty. I haven’t stopped since then.”
Nearly four decades later, Bloom is still on the road, these days in support of his 20th recording This New Morning.
“I spent 3 weeks in Australia in 2011 singing with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When I came home to Ireland, the writing flowed; and by November I knew that an album was essential.”
The result, he notes, was a labour of love.
“The process was exhausting, and demanding, and changing daily. I invited many singers and musicians to join me with these songs; this required me to be totally open and at peace in the work. I loved every second of it and am really happy with the result.
“As an artist, the most important growth is in the area of trust. Trusting my craft, and trusting that with the right motivation, the song and the singer will be taken care of. And also accepting that I am flawed and unaccomplished and enjoying the fun that this acceptance brings. It’s a relief not to need to be greater than you are.”
Audiences appear to be pleased with This New Morning as well.
“As I travel with these songs, each takes on its own life’s journey, and in different places, people connect with different songs. In Germany it’s Heartman; in Switzerland it’s Riverdays; in Holland it’s The Ride; in Ireland I think it will be Dignity and Backbone.”
The rewards, he notes, are plentiful.
“This life is the reward. I get to sing, write, meet and connect with people. How many people get to be heard? I am blessed.”
The calling is not without its challenges however.
“I think that perhaps vocation might be too strong word to describe what I do. It implies great sacrifice, and thus the word diminishes the lives of people who truly sacrifice. Remember, I do this because I love it, and have done for ever. That said, the challenges of my work are loneliness and waiting.
“Still,” he adds with gratitude, “I never imagined I would be earning a living from this work. And I still have that raw sense of urgency and wonder at the possibility of a good melody that drives me to keep looking for the word, the chord, the rhythm and the life force of the next song….”
This New Morning
Big Sky / Compass
Inspired by his time with the Dalai Lama, Luka Bloom takes his soul and songwriting to new heights with This New Morning. How Am I To Be and A Seed Was Sown are warm and welcoming openers, while Heart Man is a lovely stroll through spiritual spaces. Capture A Dream, Your Little Wings and You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time are more traditional in scope and style, and The Race Runs Me bears witness to the Irish songsmith’s subtle prowess on the guitar. Gaman and You Survive are some of the most haunting and beautiful melodies that Bloom has ever composed, and serve as testament that the ageless folkie remains one of the Emerald Isle’s finest musical exports.