Album Reviews

Peter Karp

Alabama Town

Artist:     Peter Karp

Album:     Alabama Town

Label:     Rose Cottage Records

Release Date:     01/06/2016


These were my words about Peter Karp ten years ago upon his excellent solo release for Blind Pig, Shadows and Cracks: “Peter Karp is a gifted, witty, often shady-side-of-the tracks songwriter with a myriad of nomadic experiences and career changes to draw on. Karp spent his childhood split between northern Jersey with his mom and a trailer park in southern Alabama with his dad, eventually breaking into the local music scene in New York as a teen with the punk-blues band, They Came from Houses. Karp walked away from a commercially promising record contract, attended two colleges without obtaining a degree, and opened his own film production company in Manhattan before returning to performing music in the late ’90s.” Add to that brief biographical sketch, his tenure with Peter Karp and the Roadshow Band featuring Mick Taylor at the beginning of this millennium, documented in The Arson’s Match, released earlier this year.  Of course, there were two excellent releases with Canadian blues woman and then partner, Sue Foley, in 2010 and 2012. All of which, in my long-winded way, brings us to up to date. This is really Karp’s first fully realized solo release in about ten years, and the nomadic experiences , the break up with Foley and the passing of his mom all play into it.

As he’s done on previous releases, Karp handles guitars, mostly his trademark electric resonator, and although he plays piano on one track, he invites a number of high profile guests to play some of the instruments he would usually play. Mick Taylor, Garth Hudson, Todd Wolfe, Paul Carbonara and his son, James Otis Karp, factor in, which we’ll detail as we move forward. As per usual, Karp’s craftsmanship shines in his songwriting, especially on the title track, “I’m Not Giving Up,” “Nobody Really Knows” and the break-up lament, “I Walk Alone,” with an accordion spot that only the wizard Garth Hudson could lay down. Unlike his aforementioned decade old solo release, this one is rather evenly split between an accent on songwriting and riffing as a seasoned bluesman.

Harmonica ace and pal Dennis Gruenling pairs with Karp on three raw acoustic tunes, “That’s How I Like It,” “The Prophet” and “Beautiful Girl.” Mick Taylor contributes a killer solo on “I’m Not Giving Up” and then provides some nasty slide guitar on the epic “Her and My Blues.” “The Prophet” features Karp’s son, James Otis, on guitar. Todd Wolfe adds his axe to the title track, detailing life in the Alabama trailer park while guitarist Paul Carbonara (Blondie) guests on “Y’All  Be Lookin’.” John Zarra’s mandolin colors “Kiss the Bride.”

Karp’s eye for detail, the range of emotions, the juxtaposition of Yankee-Rebel imagery and Karp’s clever sense of humor prevail. While the album lacks some of the consistency of his previous solo work and those with Foley, there are some real gems here that make this a strong effort.

-Jim Hynes

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