Before Sleep Comes is chill-out music for the soul. Irish singer-songwriter Luka Bloom created this intimate album specifically for late night listening, for those last moments of wakefulness when the imagination remains fertile but the flesh is often worn out. Its purpose, he explains, ""is to bring you closer to sleep, our sometimes elusive night-friend."" But Luka may have thwarted his stated purpose: he performs elegantly austere new songs and covers traditional ballads in such a quietly compelling manner that one would find it almost impossible to drift off while these gorgeous grownup lullabies are spinning.
It was in the early months of 2003 that fate, not design, pushed Luka away from his signature style -- the high-energy, quick-handed attack he took on his steel-string guitar -- towards a more contemplative approach on a nylon-stringed instrument. A bout of tendonitis in his right hand, a recurring ailment, had seriously sidelined him, making it painful to do gigs or even write songs. While being treated by a physical therapist, he picked up his Spanish guitar and gingerly started to pick. As Luka explains, ""After a few weeks of really soft playing, I became fond of it, and began to feel very relaxed with this style of playing, almost non-playing. I began to play ballads, and soon found myself singing and writing whispery songs. I was doing this daily, and by August, I realized that this needed to be recorded.""
Luka completed Before Sleep Comes over the course of two windy nights in autumn 03 at the Old Mill, a lovely, off-the-beaten-path studio near Naas, County Kildare. He¹d previously cut most of his 1999 Salty Heaven there, the most elaborate production Luka had undertaken in his then decade-old recording career. This time was dramatically different: just Luka¹s bedroom-volume voice, his Spanish guitar and his midnight confessions, all captured in the wee small hours.
""Rarely does quietude translate so powerfully on record,"" said Irish Times critic Siobhan Long in a four-star review, ""and rarer still is the bottling of an artist's personal happiness as successful as this beautifully somnambulant albumŠ Luka fuels this gentle mix of original and traditional tunes (including a finely understated reading of The Water is Wide and an even finer snapshot of the twilight zone that is the title track) with minimum intervention beyond strings and larynx. One for the witching hour. "" The Irish Voice simply declared, ""It feels like Luka has made a record just for your nightstand.""
Before Sleep Comes is not so much a radical change for Luka as a deeper exploration of a particular aspect of his craft. He¹s long been known for creating rousing, anthemic tracks like ""The Acoustic Motorbike,"" ""Delirious"" and ""Perfect Groove"" that bring crowds to their feet at his concerts. But Luka has been equally adept at composing romantic slow-burners -- like ""True Blue,"" ""Don't Be So Hard on Yourself"" and ""Love is a Place I Dream Of."" Evocative new after-hours tunes like ""Camomile,"" ""She Sings Her Songs With Open Eyes"" and ""Before Sleep Comes"" will surely come to rank with the best of Luka¹s balladry.
This is Luka's third album with Bar/None. Between the Mountains and the Moon, released in 2002, showed Luka stretching as both vocalist and writer on an ambitious set of original material that dealt with matters both sensual and spiritual. Keeper of the Flame, from 2001, featured ingeniously arranged covers of songs that had inspired Luka over the years, including Bob Dylan's "To Make Me Feel Your Love," the Cure's "In Between Days" and even ABBA's "Dancing Queen."
Reviews"Luka Bloom has created the quintessential soundtrack for the wee hours of the morning with his latest release Before Sleep Comes a stunning and somber collection of original songs and traditional folk ballads. The stark beauty of "My Singing Bird" starts the album and sets the tone for the rest of the songs. A beautiful and haunting assemblage of adult lullabies that will be cherished by both insomniacs and music lovers for a long time."