Peter Karp

Dec 31, 2020

Peter Karp
Credit Bob Schultz

Muddy Bottom Blues

Program #230 (January 1 at 8:00 p.m. and January 2 at 3:00 p.m.)

Peter Karp is known for many things. An assertive singer, a skilled guitarist and a passionate performer, he’s also an individual who writes songs that frequently reflect tales told as part of life’s journey, spawned by passion and personal experience.

Consequently he’s not easily confined to any singular genre. Blues, Americana and rock and roll reverence all find common ground within his visceral template. He taps tradition and yet also maintains contemporary credence.

That instinctive love of music was accelerated when he went to live with his dad in a trailer park, in rural Enterprise, Alabama. It was there that he became aware of the musicians that laid the seeds for the seminal sounds of the Blues, revered pioneers like Sun House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Howlin’ Wolf. He also began exploring the artists that picked up that gauntlet early on, original American masters like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Jerry Lee Lewis. 

Having been bitten by the bug, Karp embarked on his own musical journey, picking up the accordion at age seven and then making a segue way to guitar and piano in his mid-teens. 

He formed his first band, They Came From Houses, which quickly became a staple of New York’s nascent underground scene, as represented by such iconic clubs as CBGBs, Folk City and the Mudd Club. The band shared stages with the likes of Marshall Crenshaw, Mink Deville, the Stray Cats, John Hammond Jr., George Thorogood and David Johansen, among the many, but eventually Karp became disillusioned with the music scene and walked away, preferring to spend his time caring for a new family instead of finding himself always out on the road. 

He went to work for his family, but still kept his connections to music. He frequently sought out other songwriters and performers to perform with and seek advice to help him further his songwriting skill, gleaning thoughts from such artists as Willie Dixon, Robert Lockwood Jr., Sammy Cahn, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Richie Havens and Ric Ocasek. He also took some time to travel, expanding his interest in African American culture and the indigenous music of the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. 

Revitalized after his hiatus, Karp eventually returned to performing, writing songs that reflected his accumulated life experiences. That core commitment led to his first independent release, 1998’s Live at the Americana Roadhouse, a poorly recorded but well received collection of original songs captured in concert. It was also the record that brought him to Taylor’s attention after hearing some of its rough recordings. Taylor subsequently flew to the States to play on Karp’s next effort, The Turning Point, and shortly thereafter the two embarked up a tour together. 

As a result, Karp continued to accumulate a national following, and in 2007, he released a follow up, Shadows and Cracks, his first record for the respected blues label Blind Pig. He Said -- She Said, which found him partnering with Canadian singer/songwriter Sue Foley, was released in 2010 and quickly made it into Billboard’s Top Five as well. The duo’s follow up, Beyond the Crossroads, came soon after and was subsequently cited by Alternate Roots Magazine as the #1 CD of the Year for 2012.

In 2016, Karp released The Arson’s Match, a series of recordings made with Mick Taylor at New York’s Bottom Line. Funds from the project go towards a charity Karp started in his wife’s memory.

(provided by Peter Karp)