Peter Karp – Magnificent Heart
Possessing a slightly gravelly voice which lends to Peter Karp’s distinctiveness & authenticity he adds equal doses of Jon Dee Graham, Otis Taylor, John Hiatt, & Buddy Miller. With that, he takes what he’s absorbed from the blues, with a guitar tone similar to the late John Campbell & refined it into a more commercially viable roots sound – not an easy task.
Having recorded with former Rolling Stones lead guitarist Mick Taylor at NY’s Bottom Line – the critically acclaimed NJ born Peter Karp (slide guitar, solo guitar, piano, vocals), has respectable blues great creds.
13-tracks fill the well-structured Magnificent Heart, (Drops May 8 – Rose Cottage Records). Many are standard blues explorations but what’s striking are the good lyrics. Bonded to age-old blues chords & with lots of atmosphere, modest showboating, decorated for the ear — it rises to the surface like the cream in old milk bottles on a winter’s day.
Karp doesn’t try to be any of the giants of the blues. He carefully navigates his own blues path. He explores tales for the “doomed & redeemed.” Many have complicated backstories, but a stitched lyric insert offers glimpses.
Not all songs are edgy or challenging (“Chainsaw”) but they show Karp’s sense of humor on what could be just melancholy music. Blues aren’t often happy songs.
With Peter is Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson (harmonica), John Ginty (Hammond B3), Jim Eingher (piano/keyboards), Paul Carbonara (guitar solo guitar – 2 tracks), Niles Terrat & Edward Williams (bass), Michael Catapano (drums), & Cold City Horns.
The performances are proficient & inspired, well-recorded & the band catches the groove easily. “Sitting on the Edge of the World” was inspired by the Cormac McCarthy book “The Road.”
“The Letter,” (lead guitar by Paul Carbonara) is a great blues about a “crumpled up letter in his pocket…no one to mail to.” Clever. Nice back-up vocals at the end by Eyrn O’Ree.
“The Grave,” drips slinky Delta swamp Spanish moss. Humid guitars follow Kim Wilson’s harmonica, spooky organ, foot bang drum beat, & again Karp writes his blues creatively. No clichés. Reminiscent of how the late Roy Buchanan once told his maudlin blues tales.
Even on slow tunes like “Scared,” Karp is in good control as James Otis Karp plays the lead. The horn punctuated tunes have sufficient soul. With “Going Home,” it’s a near lost Robert Johnson tune with that eerie guitar sting. Jason Ricci’s harmonica is fiery.
“Compassion,” & “Face the Wind,” are piano/organ-driven with “strings” on one.
Everything seems to fit nicely on this LP.
Produced & Written by Peter Karp the 53-minute CD is available on his website.