By Mike Greenblatt
Live Concert Review for Peter Karp and Sue Foley
Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem, Pa.
June 3, 2012
Godfrey Daniels, like some basement Greenwich Village club, has seen acts come and go for the last 35 years, having played host to a world of acoustic blues, country and folk music. But when Peter Karp and Sue Foley came to town and plugged in, they blew the roof off the joint.
The chemistry between the two is palpable. Delaney & Bonnie? Conway & Loretta? More like Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. Foley’s the adorable guitar slinger who can sing the blues like nobody’s business and play some mean lead like Bonnie Raitt. Karp’s one cool cookie, all right — from his muscular slide guitar soloing to his observational and oh-so-true songwriting skills to his shaggy-haired demeanor, bluesman-beatnik vibe and, most of all, that soulful expressive voice of his, dripping with innuendo. Dude’s entertaining as hell. And when he puts down his guitar and sits at the electric piano, he can turn into Jerry Lee Lewis. Between them, they make quite the pair.
Their set consisted of songs from their two Blind Pig albums, “Beyond The Crossroads” and “He Said She Said.” Ably assisted by a crack bass/drums rhythm section, the two shook and shimmied their way through the night with steamy, bluesy rockin’ soul and a wink and a nod. They know they’re good. Now it’s just a matter of getting the rest of the world to know it. To that end, they’ve been on the road night and day for the last few months, Karp even joking they must have the booking agent from hell as they’ve zigzagged across the country with no thought of miles, gas, sleep or time. It was the last night of the leg before a short break, and they start all over again. The mind boggles at this kind of life in the trenches, playing your heart out night after night, making some of the finest American music out there today, harmonizing on your own songs, playing twin lead electric guitar solos perfectly in sync — man, one can only look on in awe and admiration.
These two are some real professionals, worthy of the highest accolades. Hell, it took Raitt some 20 years of plugging away in small clubs before she became an overnight success.
The songs off “He Said She Said” are darker than on the current CD. Conceived after a series of e-mails back and forth during a particularly stressful time in both of their lives, the material is compelling, thought-provoking and all-too-human, conjuring up images that are as painful and bitter as they are profound yet illusory. As an album, it was a brave move, especially for their debut.
The songs off the new “Beyond The Crossroads” are a party. They’re much better suited to be performed live in hot, sweaty bars in the middle of nowhere, where one can lose one’s self in the sound, the beer and the vibe. When Foley solos during some of the more country-tinged efforts, she reminds me of another female musical hero, Rosie Flores. When she opens her mouth to sing, oftentimes she reminds me of alt-country femme fatale Kelly Willis. Then, when the genre subtly shifts and the blues take hold of her soul, she turns it inside out and becomes the last of the red hot mamas. The real deal.
Foley and Karp complement each other. They tell on each other in amusing between-song asides. One wonders if they’re lovers. They certainly make musical love onstage every night. Of course, their personal life is no business of mine, and, to tell the truth, I don’t even want to know. The whole point is that, while onstage, they’re the equal, in their chosen Americana genre, of anybody. It’s magic.