[30 July 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Kath Bloom has been around writing beautiful songs for a long time—long enough that she should be known by more people, and should already be remembered for more than just her appearance on the Before Sunset soundtrack. So a bunch of folk artists got together to try and honor Bloom’s songs on Loving Takes This Course, and for the most part it is a heartfelt and earnest tribute to a great songwriter. The surprises here are subtle ones, but often yield the highest points on the collection. The Dodos turn in a strikingly tender rendition of “The Biggest Light of All”, and Meg Baird’s airy and fragile piano version of “There Was a Boy” is deep in the bones haunting and beautiful. Mark Kozelek and Bill Callahan do what they do best on “Finally” and “The Breeze/My Baby Cries” respectively. But while their sounds aren’t surprising, how well their styles fit these songs is. The only left-field track comes, not surprisingly, from Devendra Banhart who turns in a kooky psychedelic version of “Forget About Him” that isn’t interesting enough to be memorable. The rest of the record is full of solid, basic renderings of songs by the likes of Josephine Foster, Laura Jean, and Mia Doi Todd. There aren’t any that don’t work, but as sweet as they sound, many lack the frayed raw emotion that Bloom brought to her songs. Still, Loving Takes This Course is enough evidence that Bloom deserves a closer look. Here’s hoping it works.