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Kath Bloom Meets Her Match: Bill Callahan

In Kath Bloom's 1982 ballad "The Breeze/My Baby Cries," the cult singer-songwriter's weary voice gnaws into the listener's hide from the very start, as she sings, "I'd like to touch you, but I've forgotten how." At the same time, avant-garde blues guitarist Loren Connors stretches the worn strings of his instrument around the devastating melody. It's a stark reminder that the everyday can weigh a ton.

On the tribute album Loving Takes Its Course, an assortment of high-profile Bloom fans — including Mark Kozelek, Josephine Foster and Devendra Banhart — cover her early-'80s work with Connors, as well as her solo return in the mid-'90s. For those who know the benefactors but not the beneficiary, the set places the covers on one disc and the originals on another, giving a new audience the opportunity to discover Bloom's heartbreaking work firsthand.

Bill Callahan's version of "The Breeze/My Baby Cries" builds around an arrangement that gathers power, even when it barely registers on the surface. But what really guides the song is Callahan's deadpan delivery, which finds the stoic resignation in Bloom's words. When he sings, "The breeze will kill me," he drops the line so candidly that listeners are left wondering if the song's protagonist even possesses the strength to walk out the door. It's a stunning reading that demonstrates both Bloom's gifts and the former Smog mastermind's tremendous ability as an interpreter of heartbreak.

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