Peter Karp, just off from producing his striking new album, “Magnificent Heart,” which bends the boundaries from blues to ballads, will perform Friday evening as part of the free Sparta Concert Series.
Karp is an assertive singer, a skilled guitarist, and a passionate performer. He writes reflective songs influenced by personal experience. He’s not confined to any singular genre, and plays blues, Americana, and rock and roll reverence. As his friend and collaborator Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor once noted, “Guys like Peter Karp, James Taylor and Bob Dylan embody Americana Blues, and us English guys are inspired by it.”
The dozen songs that make up Magnificent Heart were written over the course of the past few years while Karp was touring both domestically and abroad. They were intended, he insists, for those he describes as either “doomed or redeemed.” They’re stories about people he met along the way and the experiences he encountered along the way.
“Magnificent Heart” features Karp on slide guitar, solo guitar, guitar, piano and vocals, along with Kim Wilson (harmonica), Jason Ricci (harmonica), John Ginty (B3 organ), Jim Eingher (piano and keyboard), Paul Carbonara (guitar and solo guitar on “The Letter,” “This World”), James Otis Karp (solo guitar on “Scared”), Niles Terrat (bass), Edward Williams (bass), Michael Catapano (drums/percussion), Cold City Horns (Jacob Wynne, trumpet and David Kasper, tenor sax), and Eyrn O’ree (background vocals). The album follows on the heels of last year’s critically acclaimed Blue Flame.
Born in the tiny hamlet of Leonia, N.J., Karp was introduced to music at an early age by his mother and sister, who would take him to shows featuring the stars of the nascent English Invasion, Murray the K’s freewheeling road shows, and the soul artists emerging from Motown with the beckoning of Top 40 radio.
When he went to live with his dad in a trailer park in rural Enterprise, Alabama, 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.
His first independent release, 1998’s “Live at the Americana Roadhouse,” brought him to Taylor’s attention after he heard 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. He accumulated a national following, eventually signing with the respected blues label Blind Pig.
Blues Blast Magazine described Karp simply as “One of the most well-respected songwriters in America.”
“What turns me on is absolute honesty,” Karp says. “You have to take it seriously to stay committed to who you are and where you’re coming from. That’s the way I connect to my audience. You can’t BS people.”
Starting the evening off is “Me & My Big Ideas” a creation of Don Elliker, a NYC-born New Jersey guitarist and singer-songwriter. Ably assisted by area musician performers, Paul Kuzik (Bass, vocal), James Ryan (Pedal Steel Guitar) and (Drummer / Percussionist) Ned Stroh, they create a free-wheeling mix of country-tinged, acid-dipped, lyrically rich music best enjoyed live and in person. The band debuts in this post-pandemic 2021 music season area wide with some spirited renditions of Elliker’s compositions from his upcoming release by the same name.