East Side Slim
Peter Karp - Sue Foley - Beyond the Crossroads
Peter Karp - Sue Foley – Beyond the Crossroads
Blind Pig, 2012
For those of you who heard "He Said - She Said" from the Karp-Foley tandem, you've likely been eagerly anticipating a follow-up to that fine album.
Your wait is over, and it's been well rewarded with this exceedingly fine CD, Beyond the Crossroads. On the surface you might not think that the musical styles associated with Peter Karp and Sue Foley would mix together all that well, but like sweet and sour or peanut butter and chocolate, the sum is even greater than the already excellent individual parts. Karp is typically thought of as a powerful singer-songwriter of the quirky, rockin' mold, while Foley is closely associated with the Austin, TX school of roadhouse shufflin' blues (although she's actually Canadian, having spent several years back in the day immersed in the Austin scene.)
The vocal interplay between the two artists works very well, with Karp's burnished drawl playing against Foley's innocent/sexy stylings (although care needs to be taken that Karp's very strong pipes don't overwhelm Foley's less forceful vocals.)
While this is album is most definitely Karp's and Foley's show, they did have some help putting this project together. Two fine rhythm sections were used: Niles Terrat (bass) and Mike Catapano (drums) on Karp's tunes, or Mike Turenne (bass) and Ken McMahon (drums) on Foley's tunes. Both tandems are unobtrusive and very solid – which means they perform their duties expertly and tastefully. Additionally, there is liberal use of a powerful horn section, provided courtesy of the perfectly named Swingadelic Horns (Carlos Francis, John DiSanto, Mark Miller and Paul Carlon). And if that weren't enough (and it really should have been…) there is the occasional visit from a tremendous group of talented backup singers (James Alexander, Rosalind Brown and Charity Dawson.
The Songs: (songwriters in parentheses)
1. We're Gonna Make It – (Karp/Foley)
--This hot, horn-fueled shuffle kicks the album off in fine fashion, and the give-and-take vocals between Karp and Foley nearing the end of the tune make you believe that "they" just might make it!
2. Analyze'n Blues – (Karp/Foley)
--This tough blues is sung by Sue Foley in her best oh-so-sexy voice, and just listen to the slide guitar work of Peter Karp; the two play off each other in a potent sweet-n-sour mixture. Karp's as good a guitar player as he is a keyboard player (which is very good, indeed.) Speaking of guitar players, Foley lets her Tele do some mighty fine talking here, too. She's a tough player!
3. Beyond The Crossroads – (Karp)
--The CD's title track, this powerful rockin' tune (sung by Peter Karp) preaches a positive message: stand up, dust yourself off, get your head right and walk straight. Life tosses stones at each of us from time to time, and it's ok to feel the pain…but don't dwell within it or allow it to eat you up. Get on livin'!
4. Fine Love – (Karp)
--This is a beautiful tune, as catchy a song as you'll hear all year. It's an up-tempo rocker full of soul and high spirits, featuring a driving locomotive-like rhythm and powerful gospel quartet-like harmony background singing. This one is a choogler - nice stuff!
5. At The Same Time – (Karp)
--This song reminds me a bit more of some of Karp's past work, a little carnival-like, slightly off –kilter, giving the song a feeling of being a bit tipsy in a back alley in New Orleans, feeling full of life but yet slightly menaced. The Swingadelic Horns are featured prominently in this cut to very good effect.
6. Take Your Time – (Foley)
--This one is all Sue Foley…sexy voice, a bit of hurt, showing her Bob Dylan influences. It's acoustic-based and loose, with Peter Karp's piano stylings helping to give it a Tin Pan Alley vibe. Just try and keep yourself from singing along to the chorus, I dare you! Foley's giggle at the end of the tune is worth the price of admission all by itself.
7. More Than I Bargained For – (Karp/Foley)
--Wow, just when you think the CD can't get any cooler, this tune comes along. Karp's voice is like warm bourbon and honey (achieving a vibe very similar to that of Delbert McClinton), and then Foley comes in and throws a little (or a lot of) spice into the mix. I guess you would call this a rock tune, but it really sits happily in that place where blues, rock and soul all kind of mingle together. Once again, beautiful work.
8. Blowin' – (Karp)
--This tune is feature for Karp's singing and songwriting, and would likely be a hit single if given even half a chance on today's radio scene. Los Lonely Boys did it with "Heaven", and this tune shares several similar elements, yet at the same time not sounding like "Heaven" at all.
9. Resistance – (Foley)
--OK, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm completely smitten by Sue Foley's singing voice (have been for years), so the fact that I like this tune is a given. That being said, it's a gentle, groovy, catchy little cut, with snatches of single note Telecaster leads and a beautiful organ bed provided by Karp. This is a good one, folks.
10. Chance Of Rain – (Karp)
--If you want to talk "song of the year" candidates, this one might be in the running. It's a stone feature for Karp again, and may be the best song never written by Gary Nicholson and Delbert McClinton (but they'll wish they had!) Great fun, clever word play, definitely more than one meaning with many of the lines, and one of the few bluesy tunes to get away with using the word "shan't". Seriously!
11. Plank Spank – (Foley)
--If much of the album has mined a singer-songwriter vein, this one doesn't. It's pure Texas heat, being an instrumental feature allowing the two guitarists (Foley and Karp) to play with each other. Hot stuff – spank those planks (guitars) – indeed!
12. You've Got A Problem – (Karp)
--Ha ha ha….not exactly what you think it's going to be….a point of view tune from the perpetrator of the problem – a nice, clever and humorous turn of phrase(s). It's also a driving shuffle with gruff, steaming guitar from Foley and lots of barrelhouse-styled piano from Karp (along with a strong vocal performance.) What a great way to end the album – it definitely leaves the listener wanting more.
This CD, Beyond the Crossroads, is the 2nd collaboration between Sue Foley and Peter Karp (with both being released by Blind Pig), and I think it's going to end up ranking very highly on the list of "album of the year" candidates come the next Blues Music Awards. If you're looking for an album full of great songwriting, it's here. If you're looking for fantastic, warm musical performances, they're here. If you're looking for a bit of that magical spark that makes music so special to so many of us, it's here. In all the years I've been writing music reviews I've only given out 3 or 4 "perfect" scores, but I'm adding one to that list right now. It's time to rate this bad boy – Beyond the Crossroads from Peter Karp-Sue Foley easily achieves a rating of 5.00 on the STLBluesometer. Yes, I'm fully aware that I'm smitten with Sue Foley, but pay that no mind. This album really is that good!
For more information concerning Peter Karp and Sue Foley, see the following websites:
Lee Howland - aka East Side Slim