Even though he’s an extremely well-regarded guitarist, keyboard player and songwriter, Peter Karp has done his best to avoid the limelight. All of the material on The Arson’s Match, in fact, which was recorded live in New York, was released previously on two solo albums that were never released nationally or received major airplay. But he’s a player and tunesmith of the first order.
Karp is best known recently for his work on the Blind Pig label with Canadian guitarist, Juno Award winner and partner Sue Foley. Raised in south Alabama and New Jersey, his stylings embrace swamp, country and R&B in addition to the blues. Primarily a slide guitarist who’s influenced by Freddy King and Elmore James, he’d released the albums Roadshow and The Turning Point previously as a vehicle for his songs rather than stardom. But his work with Foley has reached the top of blues charts around the world.
Recorded at The Bottom Line in Greenwich Village and part of a two-CD set called Live For Hope, Karp is donating 100 per cent of the proceeds from this disc to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund in memory of wife Mary Lou, who lost her life to the disease in 2009.
He handles all of the vocal duties here, backed here by an all-star lineup that includes former Rolling Stone and Bluesbreakers guitarist Mick Taylor and Garden State-based harmonica player and radio personality Dennis Gruenling. Adding to the mix are his Roadshow Band: Daniel Pagdon on bass, Paul “Hernandez” Unsworth on drums and Jim Ehinger on keyboards. And the talented Dave Keyes makes an appearance on piano for one cut.
“The Arson’s Match,” a description of losing everything in a house fire, kicks off the album. It’s a straight-ahead blues set atop a medium shuffle with some nice stop-time breaks and features an extended solos from Taylor and Gruenling before Peter comes to the fore on slide. The mood quiets dramatically but brightens quickly for “Gee Cheengee Chee Wawa,” about a mystic woman in a remote corner of Mexico.
“Y’All Be Lookin’” details the different ways people try to find romance before “The Turning Point,” a ballad that sings about feeling inadequate in a marriage but seeking the change necessary to bring the loved one back into one’s life after the damage is already done. “The Nietsche Lounge,” a rapid-paced shuffle packed with psychological imagery, precedes the funky “Your Prettyness,” a tongue-in-cheek, humorous description of a beautiful woman who has no class or sense of style.
Next up, Karp sings about “Rolling On A Log” and about to fall off as he depicts a man pegged at birth as someone who’d never amount to anything good. Another ballad, “I’m Not Giving Up,” follows, offering hope for the future of a relationship despite current problems, before the blues-rocker “Treat Me Right” and propulsive “Train O’Mine” conclude the set.
The Arson’s Match is a rock-solid, fun live recording chockfull of great tunes. Although it’s available through many vendors, I’d advise downloading it directly from the artist’s website to guarantee all of the money goes to the charity.
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