On Kath Bloom’s latest CD, Terror, there exists an uneasy coexistence between folksong influences and harrowing vocal performances rife with disturbing images from contemporary life. While fans of traditional folk music may find some of Bloom’s reference points startlingly urban and dystopian, they reflect both her New Haven roots and an uneasy relationship with the mainstream music industry. Bloom took a long hiatus from recording: from the mid-eighties to the late nineties. Ironically, she’s an unobtrusive yet unmistakable Zeitgeist place-marker in the mid-nineties film Before Sunrise.
The material here was composed during the past three decades, but it is all previously unreleased. Like Jimmy Scott, another fine singer who combines the calamitous with the eloquent in his voice, there’s a careworn quality and vibrant warble to Bloom’s delivery. The immediacy of the CD’s performances lends an intimate, lived-in quality to the proceedings.
True, intonation can be problematic at times, which adds angst to some of the songs’ distressful messages. Still, there’s heartfelt feeling and heart-breaking phrasing underneath the sometimes roughhewn surface. Terror may not always be pretty, but it’s often moving.