Both Nathan Hogan and Jennifer Kelly have explored the two most salient points that a discussion of Kath Bloom raises. Weíll proceed from there. In short, Bloom had worked with Loren Mazzacane Connors in the late 1970s and early 1980s on a number of odd folk albums that combined Bloomís strong, traditional voice with Connorsí strange guitar work. After they stopped collaborating in 1984, Bloom concentrated on raising her children and stopped making music, at least publically. Like Vashti Bunyan though, Bloom was rediscovered later in life when Richard Linklater used a song of hers in his peripatetic romance Before Sunrise.
Bloom is now three albums into her second run, and her latest Thin Thin Line falls generally into the same class of praise and criticisms that Kelly made of her 2008 record Terror. While Bloomís voice is full and pleasant and enjoyable to listen to, itís also a rather archetypal folk voice. What was interesting about her early albums was how that voice played off of Connorsí weird wandering. It was that dynamic that drove those albums and made them interesting beyond either of the twoís singular contributions. Without that dynamic, itís difficult to say that thereís anything intriguing about Thin Thin Line.
A pretty voice. An agreeable album of ordinary folk tunes. Itís difficult to be truly critical of these things. On one hand, Bloom makes music that seems appropriate. The trajectory of her work makes Terror and Thin Thin Line seem natural. As I pointed out, the dynamic between her and Connors is what drove those early albums, so on her own she sounds much like anyone would expect. On the other hand, in the scheme of things, itís just simply not that interesting an album. Affable albums arenít what we end up revisiting. We put them on as background music. We casually read to them. Do the dishes and yardwork. But nothing in albums like this speaks to us on a profound level. Both aesthetically and emotionally, Thin Thin Line feels a bit anachronistic.
And the conundrum is then, is this something to chastise? Maybe Bloom got her avant-garde yayas out when she was young and would rather make agreeable music from now on. I donít want to begrudge Bloom her homecoming, but it depresses me to see an artist who did make weird, creative work early on and who then naturally became more commonplace. Maybe Iím just reading the existential horror of middle aged leveling off into Thin Thin Line. Maybe Iím just being unfair.