SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS Peter Karp & Sue Foley

A blues summit par
excellence: the master guitarists expand upon the rules of engagement for
musical duets.

 

BY TOM CALLAHAN

 

Sometimes the whole can be greater than the sum of the
parts. Think the too-short partnership between Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye. Or
the collaboration between Richard and Linda Thompson when they were married. The
pairing of two great artists who somehow captured
lightning by joining forces. This might be happening now with two accomplished
and veteran blues performers and songwriters, Sue Foley and Peter Karp. Foley
was born in Canada and by 21
was in Austin,
recording on the legendary Antone’s blues label. Karp was raised both in the
deep south of Alabama and New Jersey and came to national attention when he
teamed up with former Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor.

 

Beyond the Crossroads (Blind
Pig) is the second collaboration of Foley and Karp and builds on 2010’s He Said, She Said. And that album was
pure lighting. It was also one of the best blues/roots albums of the last
decade. It grew out of a series of emails that Karp and Foley had exchanged
during a turbulent period of their lives. And some point they decided to move beyond
email and collaborate. Consider the song “Rules of Engagement” from that first
album, as Foley and Karp trade lyrics:

 

 

Foley: “You launched
your last offensive and got me on the run.”

Karp:   “Then I waited in the darkness and loaded up
my gun. Got you when you were sleeping. You were unawares.”

Foley:  “I screamed bloody murder and you chased me
down the stairs.”

Karp:    “Confront you in the hallway tried to state
my case.”

Foley:   “You were just determined to put me in my
place.”

Both:    “We fussed and fought and tried to run and
we wound up in a heap.”

Foley:   “Then you grabbed me and kissed me hard and
we went off to sleep.”

 

 

Tammi and Marvin had nothing on these two. But the lyrics
are accompanied by laughter as they both are having fun. Furthermore, the song
features Karp’s beautiful National Steel slide guitar work. And when performing
together on stage, Foley is constantly shooting Karp looks that say that she is
not fully going to fully buy into his bullshit. This collaboration is unique in
that when most stars get together for projects like this, they don’t write
their own thematic songs. This is not two blues vets rehashing their hits or the
three millionth take on “Sweet Home Chicago.” Thankfully. Also, while both are guitarists
and accomplished songwriters, Karp’s slide guitar perfectly complements Foley’s
intense guitar playing. And Foley’s soaring vocals complements Karp’s gruff yet
down to earth and self-depreciating singing.

 

 

 

 

 

This is an organic collaboration. Beyond the Crossroads is not Vol. 2 of He Said She Said, which approaches near classic status in my book. To be fair, it does not have the
fireworks of the first album, but it would be hard to duplicate that unless
these two were somehow channeling Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Nor is
it quit as autobiographic as those once private emails. The idea here was to
write song about positive themes and the triumph of hope, optimism and faith. Six songs are written by Karp and
three by Foley. But it is on the three songs they wrote together – “We’re Gonna
Make It,” “Analyze’n Blues” and “More Than I Bargained For” – that you hear the
magic come through. Consider “More Than I Bargained For”:

 

 

Foley: “I’ve learned
hard along the way. You got to let yourself be loved. Don’t be afraid.”

Karp:   “It’s not a game, it’s not a deal. This time
I learned that love can be something real.”

Both:   “This time I got more than I bargained for.”

 

 

In blues lore, the crossroads is where you went at midnight
to make your deal with the devil. But maybe there can be something positive,
like true love, located beyond that dark place if only we are brave enough to
look.

 

Here is looking forward to many more collaborative works by
Sue Foley and Peter Karp. As Tammi and Marvin sang so long ago, “Ain’t nothing
like the real thing, baby.” And musically at least, they might just have found it.

 

 

Peter Karp and Sue
Foley are currently on tour, through mid July. View full itinerary here.

 

Leave a Reply