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Luka Bloom
Eleven Songs
Bar/None Records
www.lukabloom.com


This record has been a long, long time coming. I can't recall anytime in his history that Luka Bloom has released a record that felt like a "band" record. Whether there have been drums and bass and other instruments on his previous records, they've always felt like a solo record with backing musicians, if that makes any sense. Eleven Songs has a more "band"-like feeling… an almost collaborative spirit that adds an entirely new dimension to the music of Luka Bloom.

The songs remain unmistakably Bloom… from the opening strums of the near-rocking "There Is A Time" to the closing chords of "Don't Be Afraid Of The Light That Shines Within You". And while there are tracks that approach rock, with drums and bass in full force, the inimitable character that is Luka Bloom is never hidden. The drums tend to take a nice rolling beat, with a light swing, perfectly complementing the smooth guitars and occasional piano. "There Is A Time" is a beautiful tune, with lounging piano, the aforementioned drums, and Luka's unmistakable vocals… but with the extra instruments it allows the man to stretch and play some very nice single note lines on his guitar, revealing what some of us have known for ages; the man is a virtuoso. Things really get rolling as the drums shuffle out an Americana beat on "I'm On Your Side" as electric guitar slides stealthily around the background, thickening the sound and adding the perfect amount of tension… this track almost sounds like a Bob Dylan track, which I believe is the first time I've ever been able to say that about Luka's songs. The softer side of Bloom's sound is still extant, as evidenced on the visceral and earthy "I Hear Her, Like Lorelei". It's a softly strummed number backed with supple strings and piano backing the perfect melodies that only Luka seems to be able to write.

There are two songs on Eleven Songs that were first heard recorded on last year's The Man Is Alive DVD/CD set. The first is the amazing "See You Soon'. This is quite possibly the greatest song that Luka Bloom has ever penned, and most definitely one of the most intimately powerful. In this fully recorded version it maintains the same simple power that his solo acoustic performance contained, but the sound is fleshed out lightly, creating a more powerful vehicle for the strength of the lyrics. "I hope I love you enough to let you go/And loosen the hold you have on me" is understatedly sung as Luka's amazing guitar playing is wonderfully offset with hobbling drums and soft electric guitars. The second is album closer "Don't Be Afraid Of The Light That Shines Within You" that Luka has been performing for a couple of years. With a fully arranged band the song is even more anthemic and dynamic; a song to truly enliven the human spirit, which is something that Luka has always been very good at doing.

There is a treasure trove of other great songs on the record, and not a single one is a sleeper. There are edgier songs and softer songs and songs that truly make one wonder how a man who has seen as much as Luka Bloom has seen in his life can hold such a great, lively spirit within his body. The man is alive, and his music continues to get better and better. Check out Eleven Songs and rejoice in the living with Luka Bloom.

-Embo Blake

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