Luka Bloom’s new album was recorded at Lettercollum House in Timoleague, writes Eoghan O’Sullivan
In a way, Frugalisto, Luka Bloom’s latest album, has been 45 years in the making.
Its closing track, ‘Wave Up To The Shore’, recorded by his brother Christy Moore on his 1976 self-titled ‘Black Album’, was the first track Bloom wrote, in 1971, that he decided “wasn’t shit”.
It was inspired by his English teacher at Newbridge College, Pat Colgan, and his now wife, Margaret, who had encouraged him to be creative and write.
“Yet every time I've recorded an album since I wrote it, I've attempted to record it but it never seems to come together. As a result of that I worried I'd never get to record it,” says Bloom, declaring he is grateful to Christy for recording it because otherwise it might have been forgotten forever.
“But it's been like a beacon of light in the background of my life for many, many years. When I was in Lettercollum House it emerged again and I got to sing it with my nephew, Gavin, who lives in Timoleague. I'm just so happy that that song made it onto a record, for me it's a perfect ending to the record.”
Bloom says Gavin Moore helped reinvigorate the song - and that theme of rejuvenation runs right through Frugalisto. Bloom moved to Doolin, Co Clare, in 2012.
“I just kept feeling this pull to the west, and in the end it became irresistible,” he says. “I just wanted to immerse myself in that world and I've done so.”
The Moy Hill Community Garden, near Lahinch, has inspired him, as has its head honcho, former Irish surf champion, Fergal Smith.
“It's a beautiful thing to be inspired by people who are less than half my age. They're just a remarkable group of young people,” he says, adding that the title track, indeed the word ‘frugalisto’, was inspired by Smith’s lifestyle.
Has Bloom himself become more of an environmentalist since his move to Clare?
“I definitely think my life has become enriched by owning and buying less, and by placing less emphasis on what I accumulate and more emphasis on what I do and what I contribute.”
Though Frugalisto was inspired by a new life in Clare, it came alive in West Cork.
Recorded by John Fitzgerald (“a remarkable man”)in Lettercollum House in Timoleague, it features a host of local legends, like the aforementioned Gavin Moore, Bill Shanley, Jimmy Higgins, and Paula K O’Brien.
In the press release, Bloom calls it the best recording experience of his life. How so, I ask.
“I am prone to a tiny bit of exaggeration from time to time,” he says, laughing, “but it was certainly up there.
"But obviously when I recorded Riverside in America 26 years ago, that was a pretty spectacular experience that literally changed my life. But in terms of pure enjoyment of time spent in a studio in a beautiful part of Ireland with amazing people, I think it's very hard to beat the experience I had last year in Lettercollum House.”
Bloom says he had been in another studio earlier last year trying to record the album, but it wasn’t a good experience, and he became worried that things might not work out for Frugalisto.
“Doubt is the part of the lot of the person who chooses this road. You kinda hope that everything is going to go smoothly and especially these days when people like myself are functioning without record contracts, which means that every day spent in a studio is financed by me, not by a record company.
"And then you wonder, in the age of streaming, you're going to embark on this road of making a record, you're wondering will anyone bother buying it because they can get it on Spotify or something. So it's nerve-wrecking.
“If something goes wrong early in the process, you can be forgiven for thinking, 'Hmmm I wonder am I doing the right thing here?' Particularly in my case where I've made 20 albums, prior to making Frugalisto. So there was that anxiety, but the moment I arrived in Lettercollum House, the welcome I got from from John Fitzgerald and the people in Lettercollum, I just knew that this was a place I and my songs would feel completely at home.
"And I also knew something which is a very magical experience to have, which is that sometimes you go to studios and the attitude in the studio is you're privileged to be working in their studio, I mean you wouldn't believe some of the attitudes people can encounter going to studios.
"But it's the exact opposite in Lettercollum, where you weren't just made feel welcome, you were given a sense that these people were privileged that you were choosing to work there.
"It turns the whole thing on its head and just makes you realise that, 'If I just relax and trust and collaborate with these people, all they really want to do is help me.' That's just amazing.”
From the gorgeous tones of the lovelorn ‘Australia’, through the ridiculous fun of ‘Give It a Go’ (which sees a middle-aged man who may or may not be Bloom decide to pick up a surfboard because “the waves are calling me”) and ‘Warrior’, which one can read as a continuation of the title track or, as Bloom confides, an antidote to mixed martial arts - “I just can't see any way that any of this could be in any way good for any part of society”, Frugalisto is an affecting listen.
Just home from six weeks in Australia, and with Dutch dates and a German tour to come this year, it is De Barra’s in Clonakilty that hosts Bloom next, on Thursday.
“It's possibly the only gig I'll get to do with a lot of the musicians who actually played on the record,” says Bloom.
“The group of people assembling for this evening in Clonakility have never all played together before and they're only assembling because they happen to be present on Frugalisto.
"It's just going to be a special Clonakilty evening. De Barra's in Clonakilty is a unique and special room in the eyes of a lot of singers and musicians.
"I've been going there for maybe 25 years now and it's always magical, it's always special, and sometimes it's absolutely packed and sometimes it's not, but it's always special, I'm always up for it, it's always different, but I think this one is going to be a special night because of the album.”
Luka Bloom launches Frugalisto at De Barra’s on Thursday. Tickets (€15) available at the venue and Debarra.ie
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