Luka Bloom

Head & Heart

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Luka Bloom is best known as a singer/songwriter whose work is informed by his Irish heritage, but with 2014's Head & Heart, he's offered up a different side of himself. Bloom wrote only two of the 12 songs on Head & Heart, and on the ten covers he reveals he's a skillful interpretive performer who has learned how to express himself through the words of others. This isn't the first time Bloom has devoted the bulk of an album to the work of other songwriters, but there's a real (if understated) passion in his take on traditional songs like "Danny Boy" and "My Wild Irish Rose," which makes them sound fresh and strong in this context, as well as the classics from the catalogs of Bob Dylan ("Every Grain of Sand"), Ewan MacColl ("The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"), and John Hartford ("Gentle on my Mind"). The originals, "Give You Wings" and "Liffeyside," mesh nicely with the outside copyrights, and demonstrate that Bloom may not be writing much lately, but he's writing well. And for these performances, Bloom is joined by the Phil Ware Trio, an Irish jazz combo led by pianist Ware. The interplay between Ware, bassist Dave Redmond, and drummer Kevin Brady suggests the easily intuitive give and take of a group whose members know one another well, and Bloom takes full advantage of their warm, laid-back sound, while also cleverly weaving himself through their music with this voice and guitar. When songwriters fill albums with other people's songs, it often feels as if they're short on ideas, ambition, or both, but with Head & Heart, Bloom invests enough of himself in this material that the results are genuinely satisfying, and Bloom has rarely sounded this assured as a vocalist.

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