Peter Karp – Magnificent Heart
Rose Cottage Records
13 songs – 54 minutes
Veteran songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Peter Karp has always infused his music with insight into his life, deepest thoughts and observations of the world swirling around him, and that approach shines through like a diamond in this sometimes gritty, sometimes sweet collection of originals.
This is only the 11th album in Karp’s catalog, a follow-up to his The American Blues CD, which was released solely in Europe, in a career that’s included a lengthy, successful partnership with Canadian songbird Sue Foley and Mick Taylor, the former member of both the Rolling Stones and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Peter’s 2016 release, The Arson’s Touch – recorded in partnership with Taylor – was a Blues Blast Music Awards finalist for live album of the year.
A childhood accordion player who grew up in South Alabama, Karp doubles on guitars and keyboards. Early in his career, he rose to prominence in the underground music scene in New York, playing in the band They Came From Houses at CBGB and other top clubs in era. He subsequently became disillusioned with the music business and dropped out to raise a family and pursue a film career, but continued developing his songwriting skills, influenced by a cross section of the top names in roots music – everyone from Willie Dixon and Robert Jr. Lockwood to Bruce Springsteen and Ric Ocasek.
Deeply interested in the African-American culture, Karp returned to the stage in the late ‘90s after studying the indigenous music of the Gullah people on the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina. He’s been delivering a hard-to-define mix of blues, roots and rock ever since.
As always, Peter surrounds himself with all-star talent on this one. He handles vocals, six-string and piano with assists from harp players Kim Wilson and Jason Ricci, organist John Ginty and pianist Jim Eingher with son James Otis Karp and Paul Carbonara on guitars, Niles Terrat and Edward Williams on bass and Michael Catapano on percussion. Also featured are the Cold City Horns – Jacob Wynne (trumpet) and David Kasper (tenor sax) – and Eyrn O’Ree, who provides backing vocals.
The medium-paced shuffle “Sitting on the Edge of the World” opens the action. Inspired by a book Peter was reading while spending on the road in Hamburg, Germany, and gazing out at the rain-soaked streets of the city’s red-light district where he was staying. “The Letter” is a haunting pain-wracked treatise delivered after the demise of a romance, and the missive remains crumpled inside the writer’s pocket.
“She Breaks Her Own Heart” swings from the jump and brightens the mood despite the title as it pays poignant tribute to a lady who’s both hard to find and who’ll drive you out of your mind. Karp kept “This World” for himself during a fit of writer’s block when attempting to pen a tune for another artist. It’s an honest, bittersweet appraisal of life in general with all aspects balanced between good and bad and needing a little understanding.
“The Grave” comes with Hill Country feel and speaks about taking secrets to the hereafter while “Scared” is a ballad based on words by Peter’s late wife, poet Mary Lou Bonney Karp, features their son on guitar solo and deals with unspoken fears present in a loving relationship. The whimsical “Chainsaw” will put a smile on your face. The singer’s out on a limb, which his lady’s threatening to cut off.
“Let It on Out” percolated with a funky, urban blues feel, intensity that flows into “Cool Cool Thing,” which follows, before things quiet again for the acoustic ballad, “The Last Heartbeat” — which, Peter says, “is heard by none” – before three more pleasers — “Going Home,” “Compassion” and “Face the Wind” – bring the disc to an upbeat close.
Pick this one up! It’s a great CD for anyone who appreciates quality tunesmanship. My only criticism is that all of the typography in the accompanying literature, which includes the lyrics to everything you’ll hear here, is so small that it’s almost impossible to read without magnification.