Sunday, April 12, 2009

Luka Bloom: Diamond Mountain

SONG Diamond Mountain


APPEARS ON Turf (1994), Amsterdam (2003)

NOTES 1. The phrase "shells of houses" refers to the abandoned stone huts and villages still found in Ireland. 2. Heather is a purplish ground cover common in the west of Ireland. Hence the reference to "the reds and the browns" of the mountain.

Diamond Mountain, also known as Diamond Hill, is part of a small range known as the Twelve Bens (or Pins) in County Galway,on Ireland's famed Connemara peninsula. Local lore has it that Diamond Mountain provides Connemara's best vantage point for looking west across the Atlantic Ocean. As ships bearing family and friends departed for America during the Great Hunger, those left behind would climb Diamond Mountain to watch the ships until they sailed out of sight.

Unlike emigres from most other European countries, the Irish viewed America as a place of exile and not as a land of opportunity, even from amidst the starvation and disease of the Famine. In "Diamond Mountain" -- one of his best songs -- the Irish singer/songwriter Luka Bloom captures this sense of dislocation ("The cruel sea calls the unwilling traveler") by focusing on those left behind as well as those exiled. Two lovers about to be separated for good say their farewell on the mountain, with the one staying behind promising that "I will be here when you need me."

Perhaps the strongest verse in the song concerns the migrants to Australia, not America. Bloom links the aboriginal tradition of songlines with the Irish love of singing, showing that the Irish brought their communities with them in the form of "magical airs." This becomes the only way that the lovers can connect until death. "Diamond Mountain" is a beautifully evocative song, one of Bloom's best.

View from the Twelve Pins

Voices cry out, shells of houses
White-faced children, hungry eyes
The cruel sea calls the unwilling traveller
Who would look for the road to survival

Hold my hand a little longer
Take one last look out over the fields
To the reds and the browns of Diamond Mountain
Bring the smell and the sound to your station

I will be here when you need me
I will be here in the pouring rain
I will be here on Diamond Mountain

They bring their song line to Australia
Scattering magical airs, cities, towns
The dreaming road to Diamond Mountain
An ordinary wonder on the heather ground

Hold my hand a little longer
Take one last look out over the fields
To the reds and the browns of Diamond Mountain
Bring the smell and the sound to your station

He kisses his love, Diamond Mountain
The mad wind whistles, bushes, stones
Like two March swallows back on the mountain
Come full circle at last, heaven is home

You can listen to the complete song here:

Diamond Mountain (Live) - Luka Bloom

Bloom sings the chorus from "Diamond Mountain" at about the 3:00 point of this video:


  1. hey what happened to my previous comment re luka....anyhow, not to repeat myself....a p.s. luka is coming to seattle in may! but you may know that. unfortunately cleveland isn't on his itinerary - he seems fairly coastal in his touring

  2. I've seen him a couple of times -- once here and once in Boston (which is the next best thing to seeing him in Ireland). We have the 5/29 date on our calendar!

  3. P. S. Not sure what happened to your original comment -- it never showed up here.

  4. Looking forward to seeing/hearing him on the 29th.

    wv: butchmen

  5. It is an interesting BLOG, I will follow him .

  6. Hi, Elaine. Thanks for your comment; I look forward to more. BTW, I like Carla Bruni's interpretation of "Those Dancing Days Are Gone."

  7. Hey Paul!

    I just checked your new blog. Great work! A very diverse range of quality songs.

    We'll give it a shout out later today - and include the Luka Bloom piece (if that's OK)

    I always liked Barry's stuff and saw him play live countless times in an array of small Irish clubs back in the day. He always put on a great live show.

    As well as a wide range of quality original material, he has a knack for pulling amazing cover-versions out of the bag! Check out his magnificent cover of LL Cool J's "I Need Love" for example! (the genre of Paddy-Rappery however never did take off!! (thankfully!))

    Being the brother of the world famous Christy Moore did Barry no favours and it took him far longer than it should have to carve out a name in his own right!(well, even though it's not his own name!)He's still not received the success (commercially anyway) he deserves.

    Diamond Mountain is amongst his best works. The same subject matter here essentially as in what's probably his best known song "City of Chicago" (made famous by Christy Moore). Exile, loneliness, longing, sadness (just add Catlick guilt and right there you've got the essence of Irisness!)

    Diamond Mountain is a more literate work though. Beautifully poetic, it's a much better song ... but alas not as immediate as "City of Chicago."

    Also we suspect Luka'd been reading Bruce Chatwin's majestic "The Songlines" before he wrote this!


  8. Great comment! Thanks. I have to check out Chatwin's book.