Peter Karp drops a new album today, called Blue Flame. It features a cast of stellar musicians, including Mick Taylor, Todd Wolfe, Paul Carbonara, and Dennis Gruenling, along with Dave Keyes and Kim Wilson.
Born in New Jersey, Karp’s love of music was fostered by his mother and sister. Later, Karp lived with his father in a trailer park in Alabama, where he was exposed to the infectious sounds of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Howlin’ Wolf, as well as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Jimi Hendrix.
Karp learned the accordion when he was seven and then moved on to the guitar and piano. Eventually, he put together a band, They Came from Houses, which performed with the Stray Cats, John Hammond Jr., George Thorogood, and Marshall Crenshaw. Ultimately, Karp fell victim to disenchantment and walked away.
But he couldn’t shake his love for music and started performing again, this time as Peter Karp and the Roadshow Band, which dropped Live at the American Roadhouse, followed by Roadhouse two years later. A series of successful albums ensued, including The Turning Point, Shadows and Cracks, He Said She Said (which hit the Top Ten on Billboard’s Blues Album chart), Beyond the Crossroads, The Arson’s Match (with Mick Taylor), Alabama Town, and now Blue Flame.
A blistering slide guitarist, Karp’s sound blends Americana and blues elements into muscular evocative melodies featuring his expressive voice, a voice that oozes with sonic allusion and lingering overtones. According to Karp, “I look at writing songs like writing novels. It becomes my way of sharing the diverse life I’ve led. Each of my albums represents a new chapter in my life story, a sometimes tangled trajectory that has brought me to where I am now.”
Blue Flame comprises a baker’s dozen of tracks. Blogcritics got a foretaste, a song called “Your Prettiness,” which Karp describes as “a love song. (No, really!)”
“Your Prettiness” rides a funky blues melody that is driven by the piano, with the slapping bassline and polyrhythmic beat providing the groove. When the melody ascends (assuming a big band rocking-swamp-blues essence), it’s deliciously startling, not what you’re expecting. Karp’s guitar solo sets the air on fire, first with dark colors and then with red hot pigments, while the accompanying harmonica adds dirty, sweltering hues.
Karp’s vocals range from mellow and sultry to sizzling down-and-dirty howling. It’s a richly nuanced voice full of textured energy and palpable sonic flavors custom-tailored for muddy blues.
Based on the “Your Prettiness” appetizer, Blue Flame promises to be a yummy presentation of roots-blues music that will boil your blood and leave you panting for more. Karp knows how to bring heat to the blues.