Declan Murray and Amith Narayan are The Unseen Guest.
Imagine this: reverberating steel acoustic guitar, dreamy vocals coaxing out themes of faith, truth, and love. Who is this sage?
It’s Luka Bloom, an Irish singer-songwriter known for his distinctive finger-picking steel-guitar style. He tunes in D-A-D-G-A-D format and plays through a bass amplifier with chorus pedal to produce a rich, warm, haunting tone. Throughout the 1990s he toured extensively in America, with favorite spots in New York City’s Greenwich Village (especially at the Red Lion) and Washington, DC. But in recent years he has played mostly in Europe. Although Luka put out CDs in 2008 and 2010, I much prefer his earlier work with its melancholy, atmospheric charms.
Andy’s Picks for Luka Bloom: Chronologically, let’s start with a Luka track from 1992, “Exploring the Blue,” that establishes his distinctive stylizing both vocally and on guitar. After savoring this confection, move to 1994 with “True Blue.” Yeah, sounds like we have a theme simmering precociously. In 2001, his persistent loyalty rises again as “Keeper of the Flame.” By 2006, it has become a beautiful experience with the track “Venus” (2006). And then, as you open the window to the cool night air, let the ethereal “Before Sleep Comes” (2004) beckon you to “the moment of surrender . . . just before sleep comes.”
With this set of songs from Luka Bloom, you may become a loyal fan, just like me. If you like the Luka Bloom experience, you may also want to sample his various cover songs, including “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and “Dancing Queen.”
An Irish-Indian Mix
The Unseen Guest is a musical collaboration between Declan Murray (Ireland) and Amith Narayan (India), who met in South India in 2002. In their 2004 CD, Out There, they deliver a paradigm shift in fusion music. My favorite track is “Listen My Son,” described thus by Deepti Unni in India’s online edition of Rolling Stone magazine: “The percussion is understated but myriad, there’s what sounds like hand claps, bongos, maybe even a dholak, but it never breaks the melody of the guitar that switches between country and blues with consummate ease. Rich in folksy Indian tunes (sample the bright mandolin melody and the quiet banjo in the background), [“Listen My Son” reveals] a new layer to it with every new listen.”
And, this is just the beginning, as they swirl in mandolins, carnatic violins, veena, and tasteful tablas throughout the entire album.
Andy’s Picks for The Unseen Guest: Moving beyond “Listen My Son,” with its deeply imbedded U.S. blues roots, you are ready for additional sublime experiences with “Out There,” “Circle in the Dirt,” “In the Black,” and the five-minute Indian/bluegrass fusion instrumental called “Mangala Express.” The last one sounds much like something Ry Cooder might conjure in the deepest midnight hours of his Dehli journeys. “Mangala” begins like a Bela Fleck, down-tempo, acoustic bluegrass soiree. Then comes the tabla and other Indian flavors twisting and stirring this Irish curry blend. Let its curious flow continue with “Sandalista” telling a story about the revolutionary war in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
With these gifted artists, Luka Bloom and The Unseen Guest, you will begin to truly understand that the world is your family. Accept these blessings and share with your friends.
Andy Bargerstock’s radio show Fringe Toast can be heard on KRUU-FM 100.1 on Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
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