The haunting singer and songwriter returns to Dirty Dungarees for a concert on Sunday, Oct. 27
In the 1970s and early ’80s, singer-songwriter Kath Bloom released a string of fragile, haunting folk records, and then largely disappeared from public view.
“I had all of these family things. I have a son with schizophrenia who took up a lot of time, and I can’t even mention the things with my other son, but they’ve been really hard,” Bloom said by phone from her home in Connecticut. “There’s been a certain amount of dysfunction I’ve had to learn to navigate in just making something of my life, and making something of my time on Earth. … Like anything, hindsight is 20/20. I guess I could have jumped on certain [opportunities], but you did what you did and now you’re doing what you’re doing, and that’s the way I look at it.”
As Bloom’s home life has settled, though, the musician has steadily gotten back out on the road, including a return trip to Dirty Dungarees on Sunday, Oct. 27, where she’ll perform alongside guitarist David Shapiro. The pair also visited the venue in early spring, and appreciated the functionality the space offered touring acts, in addition to being a welcoming music room. Indeed, while discussing fall tour prep with Shapiro, Bloom said that her collaborator offered a reminder that there would be a chance to refresh their wardrobes amid the trek. “David said, ‘Well, we’re going to be at Dirty’s, why don’t you wash your clothes there?’” she said, and laughed.
Early in her career, Bloom said she was far more driven to write than to perform, describing the creative process in almost compulsive terms. “It came so naturally, and I could never really stop writing in my head,” she said. “It was almost a torture, to tell you the truth, because it would never stop. It was always going.”
The songs are still arriving these days — Bloom said she has a full album of completed material that she hopes to release with a label, though no deal is imminent — but at a far more relaxed pace. “Everything goes a lot slower now,” she said. “It’s like I’ve crossed more into playing them more than writing them.”
While early Bloom records are filled with aching blues and folk numbers, the musician said many of those influences were introduced by former collaborator Loren Connors, with whom she has not spoken in decades. “Loren was the one who introduced me [to those genres], and, of course, I took to it,” said Bloom, who grew up favoring the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young. “It’s all country, really. Muddy Waters is country … with some real grit and pathos. Not like country music now, let me put it that way.”
Bloom had always written, though, even penning a 50-page book when she was in fifth grade. And, having grown up with a famed oboist father and a mother who played and taught cello, combining that love of the written word with music always felt like a natural fit. “Learning where music comes from in us, and how incredibly universal it is, and how high you can get when everyone is doing it together, that’s been a real pursuit of mine my entire life,” said Bloom, who has made a living teaching music to young children ages 2 to 5.
As for her lauded back catalog, which has continually been rediscovered by both crate diggers and fellow musicians (a 2009 covers album, Loving Takes This Course, featured artists such as Bill Callahan, Mark Kozelek and Devendra Banhart covering Bloom’s songs), there are certain days when Bloom could take it or leave it.
“Personally, I don’t much like the past music [being celebrated]. I’m very much involved in the present, so sometimes I get a little bristly, like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah…’” Bloom said. “I’m touring on my reissues, and I’m grateful for it, but it kinda just makes me feel older, you know? It’s still a bit like, ‘Well… what about now?’”