D.C. Bloom is a folk/country singer and songwriter based in Austin. Having released several solo albums, his recent years have been blighted by serious health problems including multiple strokes and open heart surgeries. Only days after his album Just Another Song And Dance Man had charted in the Top 30 on FolkDJ, he unfortunately suffered a triple stroke which tragically left him unable to walk, confining him to a wheelchair.
Remarkably, he’s been able to continue making music and has recorded his sixth album Pack Up The Moon with two of Austin’s finest musicians, Chip Dolan (keyboard, accordion) and Dave Scher (lead guitar). The album consists of thirteen songs essentially in the folk and country genres, and naturally many of the songs deal with the insights and wisdom gained through overcoming such health difficulties. There is a strong spiritual aspect throughout the album, and the importance of faith is a recurring theme.
From the gentle and moving opening track, Saint of All Lost Causes, it quickly becomes apparent that Bloom is a highly accomplished songwriter both musically and lyrically. He writes the kind of deep, poetic lyrics borne from a lifetime of experience that you simply don’t hear in mainstream music much these days.
There’s a playfulness and humour to the opening line, “My pencil’s got a flat tire, erasing where I’ve been” which is contrasted by the Dylanesque gravity of lines like, “I’ve been scarred and marred by you, stigmatised with grief, my stolen life’s been wasted by a lover and a thief….”.
Musically, it consists of gentle, fingerpicked acoustic guitar and Bloom’s plaintive lead vocals that fit the material perfectly. With a succinct and moving chorus, it gets the album off to a powerful and poignant start.
Braced For The Big One is a nice contrast, musically an upbeat country rock number but with far deeper lyrics than you’ll usually find in this genre. It’s about how people are powerless in the hands of fate and accepting it: “Go shiver in the darkness, hunker down and pray, with our wagons in a circle got to take it day to day…”. Dave Scher contributes a fine lead guitar solo.
Soft Landings is the albums gentle epic, a five minute acoustic ballad consisting of just delicate picked acoustic guitar, Bloom’s emotive and intimate vocals and suitably soft use of brushes. It’s another song that goes to the heart of the human condition, the need for safety and security amidst life’s slings and arrows: “With the sorrow and the suffering of each cross we’re asked to bear, we keep longing for soft landings and the loving hands that care”.
Fourth track Harbor is another song about dealing with hardship in its many forms, this one a soothing ballad with a memorable melody. This one features some superb piano and organ accompliment courtesy of Chip Dolan, which really enriches the sound. Again, the spiritual theme of redemption runs through the song like a thread: “There’s a byway for every prodigal who feels it’s time to make things right….”.
Gone With The Texas Wind is a well crafted traditional country song, instantly catchy and infectious. Cleverly, it depicts the sound of blowing wind through the use of a musical saw (played by another Austin musician, Guy Forsyth). It’s these subtle touches that show the craftsmanship of a true artist.
Blessing in Disguise is a fine ballad with a lyrical lesson about “a femme fatale who corralled me with her Charleston charms”. It’s about finding wisdom even in bad experiences and it’s a real showcase for Bloom’s gift for eloquent and inventive wordplay.
Gospel Plow is a more overt expression of Bloom’s strong Christian faith, featuring some bluesy piano. It’s another well written song whose sentiments will resonate with everyone, regardless of faith or belief. The following Outskirts Of Paris is a rather different song, given a real Gallic charm through the use of accordion throughout. The instrumental colour and variety across the album is one of its many strengths and this song contains some of his most poetic imagery: “Ivy vines wither in the desolate heat”.
Ninth track Falling Down is an interesting song, with a beautiful descending vocal melody that brought to mind early Simon and Garfunkel as well as The Beatle’s Eleanor Rigby. It’s another of Bloom’s profoundly contemplative and philosophical songs at which he excels, with powerful lines like, “Every wall is bound to crumble, every brick will find its pile, all that’s left behind are hints that it once stood….”.
Still Life Composition is another song with an exotic European sound, this one featuring some gorgeous Spanish acoustic guitar playing in harmony, reminiscent of ABBA’s classic track Chiquitita. A very charming, sweet love song with clever use of metaphors.
Upside Of Down returns is to more traditional country fare, replete with slide guitar and banjo. It’s one of his uplifting songs about trying to see the glass half full. Next comes the title track and it’s an unexpected diversion into jazz, with a swinging rhythm that gets the toe tapping instantly. It has a jaunty, Blue Suede Shoes feel but the lyrics are dry and downbeat, an effective contrast: “Haul off the stars, they won’t be shooting no more, they’ve lost the tug of war, no need to gas the car….”
The album ends with the poignant piano-led ballad Going, Coming Home, which blends spoken and sung sections, again adding a little variety. It’s a genuinely heartwarming piece of songwriting about life’s long journey that brought to mind the lines from T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets: “The end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” A perfect way to complete the album, an emotional journey in itself.
Overall, this is a superb collection of songs that are unified by their lyrical depth and profundity as well as the consistently high quality of the music. D.C. Bloom draws on a lifetime of experience and hard earned wisdom, and to carry on after several strokes is testament to his artistic spirit and tenacity. Hopefully, many will get to hear this fine songwriter’s work and will be both uplifted and comforted by it.
VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10