Meeting in 1976 in their hometown New Haven, CT, Kath Bloom and Loren Connors formed a creative partnership that has haunted psych-folk fans ever since.
Between 1978 and 1984 they released eight albums of fragile avant-garde folk-blues in miniscule quantities, all of which now change hands for huge sums.
At first, their performances were based on drama and improvisation, with Kath acting out monologues while Loren played his attenuated free-form guitar, extrapolated from Mississippi Delta and Chicago blues.
But while Loren worked on his now legendary nine volume series Unaccompanied Acoustic Guitar Improvisations, released between 1979 and 1982, he and Kath’s performances gradually became more song-based, taking the spirituals, blues and work songs of the American South as their foundation. Kath began practicing guitar among the headstones of New Haven’s Grove Street cemetery, entertaining herself there so often that she was given a job by the groundskeeper, while Loren began developing his idiosyncratic guitar style in the 1960s.
By the early 80s, the duo were playing occasionally outside of New Haven, and in 1982, Boston independent label Ambiguous Records approached them to record their first studio album. Sing The Children Over was recorded in Watertown, Massachusetts with Ambiguous label boss Andy Breslau in the producer’s chair. Acclaimed jazz critic and music historian Nat Hentoff, already a fan of Kath and Loren’s music from two earlier live LPs, wrote sensitive, insightful liner notes and the album emerged in 1982.
Sing The Children Over mixed traditional folk and blues songs with Kath’s originals, but tracks such as It’s So Hard To Come Home and The Breeze/My Baby Cries revealed Kath to be an increasingly accomplished and moving songwriter. It also set up the dynamic template that she and Loren would follow over their remaining recordings – Kath’s keening, fragile voice, her subdued finger-picked guitar, and Loren’s own guitar playing: abstract, skittering, sometimes atonal but always intuitively supportive. Together the duo created a sound almost impossibly emotional and haunting, one that despite its ties to the past is unlike anything created before or since.
Having been bitten by the songwriting bug, Kath’s output became prodigious. She and Loren released three more albums, Sand In My Shoe, Restless Faithful Desperate and Moonlight, in 1983 and ‘84, all on Loren’s new Saint Joan label in editions of 200-300 copies, and all featuring nothing but Kath’s original compositions. The last two albums will also be released by Chapter Music as a 2CD set in August.
By 1984, however, Kath was married with a young son, and Connors himself was entering a new relationship. Although the two struggled to maintain their joint creativity, they found themselves drifting apart. After she and Loren’s final album Moonlight in 1984, Kath did not release anything again until a 1993 solo cassette Love Explosion. She then developed a devoted cult following through the pivotal use of her song Come Here in Richard Linklater’s 1995 film Before Sunrise, and has released two solo albums on Chapter Music, including the brand new Terror.
Loren also retreated from music for a period, focusing on other forms of writing until re-emerging in the late 1980s. He is now recognised as a pioneering guitar explorer, and has worked with the likes of Thurston Moore, Keiji Haino, Jim O’Rourke and many more.