Peter Karp – Blue Flame
Rose Cottage Records
Peter Karp has been writing songs and playing his National steel guitar for a long time. He began his musical journey at seven on the accordion and switched to guitar as a teen. Born in Leona, NJ, Karps maintains the New York area as his base of operations. A 2016 Blues Blast Music Award nominee for two awards, Karp has made a series of albums filled with great original songs and this adds to that legacy.
Karp does all the vocals and plays guitar, organ, piano and even harp on a track. Mick Taylor appears guitar on “The Turning Point,” Kim Wilson and Dennis Gruenling are on harp, Todd Wolfe adds a guitar track, as does Paul Carbonara. John Zarra is on mandolin, Jim Ehinger is on keys, and Daniel Pagdon is on bass. Albert Weisman and Dave Keyes are each on organ and piano respectively for a track. Paul “Hernandez” Unsworth is on drums with Dae Bennett on drums for a track plus some other percussion and backing vocals. Joanie Coleman is also a backing vocalist.
“Rollin’ On A Log” kicks off the record and none other than KIm Wilson in there to blow some mean harp here as a guest. Karp’s vocals and guitar are solid and the song has a nice little groove that grabs you. A good hook to begin with, and then the driving beat and impassioned vocals grab you on “Train O’Mine.” Dennis Grueling’s harp is also there to impress and help drive that train. A big old uptempo cut that gets moving! Karp gives us a bit of a rumba with “Your Prettiness,” a slick little tracks with guitar, piano and Dennis again on harp. The slide comes out for “Valentine’s Day,” a cool slow blues. “Treat Me Right” is a rocking blues with some big guitar work and some un-credited harp. The acoustic guitar and organ give a down-home-iness to “Turning Point.” Mick Taylor adds his guitar solo to make things a little cooler. “Loose Ends” is next, a jumping cut with blazing harp (also un-credited but I assume it’s Dennis because he’s not on one of the tracks he’s supposedly listed) and a huge, driving beat.
Karp and Wilson play harp on “Arson’s Match,” the title cut from Karp’s last album (which was recorded live in NYC with Mick Taylor). Big time slide guitar, a powerful beat and emotional vocals make for a fun cut. We go back down home and to the country on “From Where I Stand,” with guitar and mandolin selling this one. He follows with a slow blues “You Know.” More un-credited harp (must be Dennis because he’s listed for the next track where there is no harp) adds to the mix, a minimalistic and well done piece with guitar, harp and Karp’s vocals. Things go into a romping barrelhouse boogie woogie “The Nietzshe Lounge.” The piano work is great and song is loads of fun. The tempo drops for “Round and Around,” the next cut. It’s a bit of rock a ballad, like Ian Hunter with country overtones. The accordion adds some feeling and the song builds into a big guitar solo midway through and then again builds into a big finish. Karp wraps things up with “Young Girl” where his resonator and a gritty and growling vocal run on a simple beat to good effect.
Karp show us some flexibility and lots of stylistic variation in this set of all original music. The impetus for the album tile comes from Willie Dixon, who gently berated the young Karp for writing songs about whiskey and women, something Karp had little to no knowledge of. Dixon told him to be real and authentic and said to him, “When it’s honest and real then it burns hot, like a blue flame.” He later went to Nashville to try to record for an American label, but wound up on Blind Pig, a blues label. He took all that to heart and his career has been filled with success as a singer, songwriter and performer. He show passion in his work, offers up meaningful and thoughtful lyrics and themes to his songs and he’s a really good performer to boot. I enjoyed this studio album, a great followup to the 2016 live album that I also enjoyed. His albums are always well crafted and offer up good songs and performances and his guests make things more enjoyable- this album is well worth some spins!