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