Time Out New York – Issue No. 307 – August 9-16, 2001
Keeper Of The Flame
Sure, it's great fun to listen to an artist camp it up on a cover song. It's far more courageous, however, for a singer to play it straight, to reinterpret another musician's work without the tongue in the cheek – and from '80s new wave to classic folk, this is exactly what Irish songwriter Luka Bloom does on his fifth album, "Keeper of the Flame".
On many of these 12 cuts, Bloom succeeds simply by lending the warmth and lilt of his voice to the song. He enhances Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" with the kind of vocal beauty and refinement that Dylan doesn't possess. He preserves the austere integrity of Joni Mitchell's "Urge for the Going" by respecting the built-in poetic pacing of her writing, while adding fervor to her tale of wanderlust and inner turmoil, quietly pushing her melancholy ruminations to a fevered pitch.
Still, Dylan and Mitchell were obvious choices for Bloom, a gifted writer painstakingly committed to lyrical perfection. But he also throws us a number of curveballs, particularly with ABBA's "Dancing Queen". Bloom treats what could have been a campfest with the same dignity he applies to the songs of his folk heroes. "Feel the beat of the tambourine, oh yeah," he sings quietly, almost forlornly, like a guest who suddenly finds himself alone at some fete. On the Cure's "In Between Days", he turns Robert Smith's plaintive rendition into an up-tempo paean to personal happiness. Bloom even extends his earnest interpretation to Billie Ray Calvin's "Wishing on a Star", a featherweight pop single that's miraculously refashioned into a soulful, Irish-inflected ballad.
Using only spare acoustics, including a mandola, accordion, viola and flute, Bloom reinvents this motley assortment of songs. In doing so, he also masterfully manages to restore the context of the dated ones so they survive our current cynical climate. And in the end, that's what distinguishes a successful cover from mere mimicry.
Karen Iris Tucker
SF Gate – San Francisco Chronicle – 29 July 2001
LUKA BLOOM ADDS MAGIC TO OLDIES
Luka Bloom – Keeper Of The Flame
Luka Bloom has the gift of song. He can dig out the heart of a piece with nothing more than his voice and acoustic guitar and reveal the song underneath U2's "Bad", the Cure's "In Between Days" or even Abba's "Dancing Queen". This Irish folksinger turns in an absolutely gorgeous outing on his sixth album, starting with the best version yet of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" and ranging through material by Radiohead, Joni Mitchell and Bob Marley. It's all uniquely transformed by Bloom's extraordinary abilities.