armchair cultural observation since 1995

Kath Bloom – Loving Takes This Course

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Kath BloomLoving Takes This Course 2xCD tribute/compilation
(Chapter Music – April 7, 2009)
By Matthew Ralph

When a link to a downloadable two-disc Kath Bloom tribute/compilation showed up in my e-mail several weeks ago, I almost deleted it. The name didn’t ring any bells and the prospect of listening to two CDs worth of music didn’t seem all that appealing, especially considering how little I was listening to any music at the time.

Fortunately, names like Mark Kozelek, Scout Niblett, Corrina Repp and Devendre Banhart on the track listing made me reconsider discarding the e-mail like most of the others promoting some “hot” new release.

Getting past the unknown factor and my general disinterest with tributes and compilations, I quickly discovered why so many artists, even ones with household names, jumped at the chance to pay tribute to the Connecticut-based singer-songwriter who began releasing limited edition recordings in handmade sleeves in the ’70s.

Kath Bloom’s songs are simple, catchy and low budget affairs, featuring a melancholy croon weaving sad tales of longing over minimal instrumentation. By including her original versions of the songs covered on the first disc, the two-disc collection gives listeners a chance to compare and contrast her original takes with those of the diverse roster of tributers.

“Forget About Him” probably represents the most drastic departure between the two discs. A getting over a guy song packaged in a cheerful, even goofy, campfire sing-a-long in its original format the song is transformed into a soulful Velvet Underground-esque garage band song by freak-folk icon Devendre Bonhart. As distinct as the two versions are, the song demonstrates the strange appeal of a two-disc set with nearly identical track listings.

“Come Here” has similar charm in all three of its incarnations. In the hands of the Marble Sounds, it’s a quirky indie-pop song that blows any originals the band has on its MySpace site out of the water. The Concretes sound like they are covering Fleetwood Mac on their take. Bloom’s version, meanwhile, lacks the  edge or production values of the other two but her voice is as equally strong as the Marble Sounds’ male singer/The Concretes female crooner and her harmonica a match for the subtle plugged in sounds on both covers.

Descriptions of the other 15 songs in the collection would follow a similar format. Bill Callahan, Mark Kozelek, Josephine Foster, Scout Niblett and company all turn in worthy renditions that won’t disappoint their collective fan bases but the one whose name will probably attract the least attention to the project is still the one who shines most. Simply put, Kath Bloom’s criminally underappreciated songs, even when repeated two and three times on a two-disc set, steal the show.

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