Peter Karp and The Roadshow to The Nicholson Pavilion Stage on Friday, Aug. 21, as part the Sparta Summer Concert Series. The free concert begins at 7 p.m. in Dykstra Park, 22 Woodport Road.
Karp is an assertive singer, a skilled guitarist, and a passionate performer. He also writes songs about his life’s journey. He’s not confined to any singular genre -- he taps the blues, Americana, and rock and roll. 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 singer, songwriter, and guitarist Don Elliker, a Sparta native, will be opening the concert with “Me And My Big Ideas.” Elliker is a past winner of the MTV Beach House Band Search and a member of the popular trio Blue Country. He will be bringing his latest songs and his guitar for a solo performance.
Bring family and friends, lawn chairs, picnics and masks. Protocols for social distancing and the safety of the public will be strictly enforced. All attendees are asked to stay with their groups. All are asked to wear masks when entering and when walking around for any reason. Each group will be asked to provide contact tracing information. In the case of inclement weather, the show will be held on Saturday, Aug. 22. Visit spartaarts.org or Sparta Arts on Facebook for updates.
Karp’s new album, “Magnificent Heart,” bends the boundaries from blues to ballads. It includes the gritty defiance in such songs as “Sitting on Top of the World” and “The Letter,” the swagger of “This World,” the stoic determination in “The Grave,” and the softer of “The World,” “Scared,” “The Last Heartbeat,” and “Face the Wind.” They’re stories about people he met while touring in the last few years.
“This record reflects where I’ve been and what I’ve experienced through growth, emotion, aspiration, conflict, love, loss, and mortality,” he said. “Is it a bit heavy? Sure! It better be...if you want to dance with me.”
“’Scared’ originally started as a poem by my late great wife and poet Mary Lou Bonney Karp,” Karp said. “I took it and re-wrote it as a ballad while trying to keep the woman’s perspective intact. Over the years it’s been recorded by different artists. This is the definitive version. My son James plays the solo. The circle is complete.”
The album 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).
Born in the 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.
That love of music was accelerated when he went to live with his dad in a trailer park in rural Enterprise, Alabama. It was there that 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.
He formed his first band, They Came From Houses, which quickly became a staple of New York’s nascent underground scene, as represented by such iconic clubs as CBGBs, Folk City and the Mudd Club. The band shared stages with the likes of Marshall Crenshaw, Mink Deville, the Stray Cats, John Hammond Jr., George Thorogood and David Johansen, among the many, but eventually Karp became disillusioned with the music scene and walked away, preferring to spend his time caring for a new family instead of finding himself always out on the road.
He went to work for his family, but still kept his connections to music. He frequently sought out other songwriters and performers to perform with and seek advice to help him further his songwriting skill, gleaning thoughts from such artists as Willie Dixon, Robert Lockwood Jr., Sammy Cahn, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Richie Havens and Ric Ocasek. He also took some time to travel, expanding his interest in African American culture and the indigenous music of the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina.
Revitalized after his hiatus, Karp eventually returned to performing, writing songs that reflected his accumulated life experiences. That core commitment led to his first independent release, 1998’s “Live at the Americana Roadhouse,” which brought him to Mick Taylor’s attention. Taylor flew to the States to play on Karp’s next effort, “The Turning Point, and shortly thereafter the two embarked up a tour together.”
USA Today described him as “a great writer and performer whose songs are driven by verbal word play and insights into the human experience. Like James Taylor and Bob Dylan, Karp embodies Americana music.”
“What turns me on is absolute honesty,” Karp said. “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. It’s always about honesty.”