Dreams in America


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.

Michael Hill
A&R Warner Bros New York (1983 to 1998)

Additional information


Luka Bloom – ‘Dreams In America’
(V2 Records Benelux)

Irish singer/songwriter Luka Bloom looks back on his career in an unusual way on Dreams In America. Instead of revisiting the finest moments from his two-decades-plus catalog in a run-of-the-mill anthology of old album cuts, he decided to devote Dreams In America to creating vibrant new versions of songs from his previous releases. In a strictly solo-acoustic format, Bloom breathes new life into a batch of previously recorded songs. From the breathless narrative of 'The Acoustic Motorbike', which blends stream-of-consciousness beat poetry with rap-like momentum over an urgent strum, to the title track, a poignant ballad of love and distance, he makes it clear that these songs aren’t just part of his history. They’re very much a part of his present as well. There are a few live, band-accompanied tracks thrown in for good measure, including the folky 'Sunny Sailor Boy', which gets Bloom’s audience singing along, and 'Love Is a Monsoon', a pulsing tune full of rich imagery. The one new song here is ironically the album's oldest song – it's Bloom's version of the traditional folk ballad 'Lord Franklin', to which he lends an almost impressionistic feel. In the end, Dreams In America shows Luka Bloom to have a history that’s worth celebrating.


[Big Sky Records]

Irish Troubadour brings it all back home.
Over the past twenty years, few performers have turned out such consistently mesmerising music as Luka Bloom. His literate songs are invariably imbued with observations of what goes on under the skin of human behavior, and he can turn in a catchy tune too. But for this album, Bloom has pressed the pause button. He’s retreated to his living room to cast an uncharacteristically nostalgic look over his shoulder by re-recording and revitalizing a selection of songs from his illustrious past. Although not intended as a "best of", Dreams In America contains such gems from his back pages as the plaintive ‘Ciara’, the sublime ‘See You Soon’ and a deliciously delicate version of ‘Black Is the Colour’. The title track has a drone effect that gives it a hypnotic eastern tinge. On ‘The Acoustic Motorbike’ and ‘Bridge of Sorrow’, Bloom slips into the hypnotic folk-rap style he made his own, and with ‘Love Is A Place I Dream Of’ he evokes the pathos of Leonard Cohen. The one new track is a straight version of ‘Lord Franklin’ in honour of Micheál O’Dómhnaill, and there are bonus live tracks, most notably a sparkling ‘Sunny Sailor Boy’. That he scales such emotional heights with just his voice, a guitar and a bagful of heartfelt songs makes Bloom’s achievements even more remarkable.

Rating: 4 / 5