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Peter Karp and Sue Foley – Beyond the Crossroads

Blind Pig Records

12 tracks; 41:42 minutes

In their new CD, Beyond the Crossroads, Peter Karp and Sue Foley take an honest look at the trials of life and relationships, without weighing you down with sadness and despair. Nearly every one of these 12 original tracks promises a peak of sunshine - or at least a hand to help you up, when life gets you down.

Beyond the Crossroads comes on the heels of Karp and Foley’s acclaimed 2010 release, He Said She Said, and demonstrates their considerable songwriting skills. As a nice touch, all the lyrics are printed inside the CD jacket, helping you to understand the meaning of each song, or to sing along, if you like. Musically, Karp and Foley are both accomplished guitarists and singers with 18 albums between them, and this release is nicely polished, without sounding over-produced.

One of the most bluesy songs on the album is #2, “Analyze’n Blues,” which appears to be about talking a subject to death. However, when the subject can’t be resolved, Foley sings, “Shut up and make love to me,” which seems to be the only sane way to end the debate. This track is just the first of several that feature Karp’s terrific slide guitar; and given the subject matter, it seems strangely appropriate that this cut ends with some feedback.

The title track, #3, has a bit of a gospel feel – especially in the background vocals, some very nice guitar picking; while the fourth cut, “Fine Love” has more of a country influence, with more slide guitar. The message of “Fine Love” seems to be that even when the relationship is less than perfect, it can still be just fine.

Some of the tunes take on a more old-fashioned style. The 5th cut, “At the Same Time,” uses horns to create such a vampy, burlesque sound that you start to wonder if there’s a fan dancer practicing in the wings. Then, the 10th track, “Chance of Rain,” is a silly little song, with minimal drums and a jazzy piano, that makes you want to grab your hat and cane and do a soft shoe.

“More Than I Bargained For,” the 7th track, is their first single release from the album. It features a great slide solo, a Tommy Castro-style contagious rocking beat, and nicely balanced vocal harmonies. But my favorite cut on the CD is the last one, “You’ve Got a Problem.” Here the singer not only admits to being the cause of his lady’s problems, he seems almost proud of it. No worries, it’s all in fun – just a dance-friendly rocker, complete with boogie-woogie piano.

I have to admit that hearing Sue Foley sing for the first time threw me off a bit. She’s a very talented singer, but her voice has a higher and sharper tone than your average blues vocals, which I generally expect to be more smooth and low. However, I found that Karp has the “smooth and low” vocals well covered, and that Karp and Foley harmonize exceptionally well together, in addition to having a great chemistry.

A peek at their website reveals that Karp and Foley are hard-working musicians. As of June 12th, they had toured eight states, playing 47 shows in 52 days. They offer mentoring and music lessons via Skype, in their “American School of Blues and Roots Music.” They also do workshops in schools, called “In Their Own Words: Teens Writing Their Blues Workshops.” These sessions help teenagers learn to express themselves and their problems in a constructive manner. This is not only a wonderful way to pass on a love for the Blues to the next generation, but it also helps ensure that Karp and Foley can continue to make a living doing what they love to do.

The fact that these artists are backed by Blind Pig Records is a pretty good endorsement that Karp and Foley have something significant to say, and that their talent is considerable. After immersing myself in their work, I would have to agree that theirs is a great partnership, and Beyond the Crossroads is certainly worth a listen.

Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.

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