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Luka Bloom

If this is all Bloom has to say after a more than two-year break from releasing new original material, he may as well take another extended hiatus. Although eminently listenable in a chamomile-sipping, NPR sort of way, there's little here worth hearing for anyone but diehard Luka lovers. The most satisfying selections -- "Monsoon," "Perfect Groove" and "Soshin" -- surround the songwriter's rich tenor brogue with flute and fiddle licks of a vaguely Eastern origin, while acoustic guitars and hand percussion supply a relatively spunky beat that camouflages the occasional inanity of Bloom's rhymes. "Perfect Groove," for instance, includes the assertion, "I'm looking for the perfect food/Not undercooked or stewed/A tasty little mood/I want to sing for you." More traditional is "As I Waved Goodbye," which mixes a sprightly Irish melody with a droning arrangement that suggests a backdrop of bagpipes.

When Bloom takes himself too seriously, however, as he does on ballads such as "Here and Now," he's duller than a sack of spuds. While the slow tempos of such numbers showcase the singer's heart-on-his-sleeve delivery, they also sport stanzas so generic they'd make the Indigo Girls blush. Sample line from "Love Is a Place I Dream Of": "Someday I will cross the world for you/No matter how far/Just to be there." He fares slightly better on "Hands of a Farmer," a touching if underdeveloped elegy to traditional Irish musician Micho Russell that combines Bloom's flair for nature-inspired imagery with an actual subject.

Overall, perhaps the best that can be said about this CD is that, with nary a song over four minutes, Bloom at least has the sense to keep it short. Not even backing vocals from Sinéad O'Connor, present on several cuts, can save this one.