Photo: Leda Resurreccion

Here Comes the Bloom: Timothy Bloom Takes Hip-Hop to the Sock-Hop

More sock-hop than hip-hop, soulster Timothy Bloom does a stunning '50s revamp on contemporary R&B.

He is a two-time Grammy award winner. He’s worked with legends like Smokey Robinson and has garnered praise from such musical luminaries as Public Enemy’s Chuck D. And still there are too many people who have yet to hear of him. Timothy Bloom has been diligently working the music circuit, writing and recording for the last six years or so. But he managed to turn some heads with his 2014 self-titled debut, an illustrious jewel of rousing blues and silky soul which featured his incredibly versatile singing.

Bloom’s debut introduced to the pop music landscape a talent at once mercurial and shape-shifting as it is stoically rooted in tradition. The singer-songwriter had previously rattled cages with a risqué music video for a single from his earliest work, a 2011 EP entitled The Budding Rose. The music clip for “’Til the End of Time” featured an unclothed Bloom amorously wrapped around an equally bare V. Bozeman, his duetting partner on the single. If all the artist had to offer was an absolutely chiselled body, his efforts might have been chalked up to nothing more than a shameless marketing ploy. Far more naked than the buff body, however, was a singular talent, stripped down to its most potent and protean element. Building emotional architecture out of a sinewy guitar line and clicking percussion, “’Til the End of Time” enticed a small but growing following with the allure of an enthusiastic and passionate voice.

With his full-length debut, the multi-instrumentalist pulled from influences as disparate as Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Jimi Hendrix and Prince. The album is rough, coarsely designed, but never uneven. There are helpings of undulating funk and grinding blues with the sweet glaze of pop to ensure that it all goes down smoothly. His debut earned a loyal fanbase who championed Bloom as a modern day Sam Cooke. His music is everything that live, band-oriented R&B should be, but hasn’t been for so long. And as time has gone on, his music has increasingly embraced everything from folk and blues to jazz, hip-hop, and rock.

2016 sees the release of Bloom’s latest EP, The Beginning. The EP is, naturally, short (at seven songs) but tremendously sweet. Whereas Timothy Bloom was moody and opaque, The Beginning is vibrant and sparkling. There is a pronounced element of groove here, with the molasses slow-drip of hip-hop rhythms and some Chuck Berry-inspired beats. On the EP, Bloom assembles a lush engagement between booming drum loops, ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll, and the sumptuous swell of ragtime brass. “I’m a huge fan of that New Orleans Jazz/Ragtime movement,” says the North Carolina native. “I just feel connected to the culture. I love trumpets and trombones! I feel like they take you on a journey. “Me and Myself” and “Sweet Angel” are very special pieces of art that I wanted to bring to life, something a little different from the norm that I would do…[I’ve got] the amazing Maurice “Mo Betta” Brown on trumpet and Frederic Yonnet on Harmonica.”

Numbers like the title-track and “Nobody Does It” evoke the pure rush of sock-hop days; soaring pop awash in the hazy pink of Sunday night malt shake memories. Harder-edged tunes like “Adam and Eve” are jump blues filtered through the rough-hewn glamour of punk-pop.

Bloom’s newest feature in his latest work is the judicious use of a few choice samples and loops. “I rarely use any samples in my music,” he maintains, “so I tend to play the music the best way I know how: giving my interpretation so that it reminds you of a particular record. The only sample I used for this EP was Santos and Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” (heard on “Nobody Does It”) which is a favourite of mine. The musicianship back then had a lot of passion, feel, and soul. Not saying it doesn’t now, but back then you could feel it through your bones.”

Perhaps Bloom’s constant (though involuntary) skirting of broad mainstream success has much to do with the fact that his music lies neither here nor there. Working a continuum within the interstices of a number of genres, the musician’s sound is a little more eclectic than any A&R man should like it to be. Despite being tagged with the R&B label, Bloom’s sound is likely to switch gears on the turn of a dime. Edging closer to a blend which seems to encompass everything from electronic grooves to the organic strums of folk and rock, the singer is tasked with offering nothing more than solid songwriting to sell himself; he may have poster-boy looks, but he’s not exactly a poster-boy.

“I think as the times change with technology, etc., so does the mind,” Bloom says. “I guess you become more adapted to what the people want, and “some people” are looking for real good music, music that has feeling. The people drawn to my music, perhaps, are women and men who are in serious relationships. Just people who want good music.”

Believe it or not, Bloom’s humble beginnings had him singing and touring with a boyband in Germany during the ‘90s, a far cry from the restless and free designing spirit he is today. And what exactly were the formative experiences there that brought his work to its present-day fruition? “Germany was a love experience – like that laboring love,” he reflects. “[It was] work for scraps kinda situation. I learned a lot about the politics, the producing, the writing, the phony friendships, the rejections of the business, the control it can have on you and the happiness it all can bring — because you have this burning desire to do it.”