BluesWax Sittin’ In With
Peter Karp & Sue Foley
Beyond He Said She Said
By Kyle M. Palarino
Peter Karp and Sue Foley are back for round two as they release their second album together, Beyond the Crossroads. This is a gorgeous step forward in the growth of their time together. It takes off from the original He Said She Said album, which was one point of life for these two people, and really takes them past those initial letters and onto so many strong-feeling songs. Beyond the Crossroads uses the great Swingadelic Horns and James Alexander brings in some great gospel, soul-tinged background vocals to flavor the album. You get more flavors on this album than at a Baskin-Robbins.
Peter and Sue really took their time to write a strong album. This time it focuses on positive themes. The song titles tell the story: “We’re Gonna Make It,” “Beyond the Crossroads,” “Fine Love,” “Take Your Time,” “More Than I Bargained For,” and “Resistance.” These songs talk about real relationships that all of us have with people every day; sometimes it’s an intimate relationship, but you could apply it any relation in your life. These two writers have put a lot of thought into these songs and they benefit the listener as well. The best musicians grow with time so we can grow with them.
Peter Karp is an amazing songwriter and cutting slide guitarist that is the perfect cohort for Sue Foley. Sue blazed herself on the world through the rough and ready Austin music scene in the early 1990s. Not an easy place for a “girl” to grow up. Sue’s tough enough to do it. Her playing pushes Peter each night on the stage and don’t think he doesn’t put up a fight. Some songs turn into straight guitar duels until they respectfully go back to the song. Astonishing is not the word for the respect that these musicians and writers have for each other. They know how to play for the sake of the song, but have fun and push each other’s limits while keeping the audience engaged! Hot Damn!!
I sat down with Peter and Sue two years ago at the Hungry Tiger in Manchester, Connecticut, when He Said She Said came out and I am lucky enough to do the same thing again in the same place. These two are a fun interview – very willing to share their experiences and thoughts behind their tales. Even if I wouldn’t recommend the coffee at the Tiger doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hit the place up for a great show and sometimes a grand chat. Sometimes you have play Bukowski and be a barfly.
Kyle Palarino for BluesWax: OK, let’s get this underway. First off, I want to attack the songwriting since you two are both top-notch songwriters. This album does take a different approach than the last one did [He Said She Said].
Peter Karp: See, he got that.
Sue Foley: Yes.
PK: One guy I don’t think really listened to the record cause all he said was like here’s another back and forth album talking about their problems. I mean he liked the record a lot, but it was like a He Said She Said II. It’s not at all like that.
SF: Yeah, he said it’s like a continuation of the story.
BW: No, that’s what I totally loved about this. It’s a totally different album from the first one. The other thing too was that the two of you seemed to separate as songwriters on this. I mean there are songs that could have been on a Peter Karp album or a Sue Foley album, were there songs that were written for the last album that were on this one?
PK: The letters from the last album yielded those songs. There really were no remnants from that record on this one. It’s not like we had a few in the can and said oh let’s throw on the next one. So this was a brand new attack.
BW: Which is what it sounded like.
PK: Having worked together and doing He Said She Said together and coming together as artists and bandleaders we started to get comfortable. Things felt good, things got really good, so I think that yielded some of the songwriting we shared there like “We’re Gonna Make It,” “More Than I Bargained For.” It got very easy. And then we pulled out our own little things and said what do you think of this, what do think of that? We turned some into duets and some into our own. I think we both respect each other a lot. Well, in a professional mode.
SF: [Laughing] Not personally.
PK: Not personally.
BW: I would hope not.
PK: [Laughter continues] Professionally we have the utmost respect for each other as musicians and songwriters. So that was really fun. We both found to be a lot of fun I think.
SF: Yeah, and me personally I considered myself more of a guitar player for a long time. I think working with Peter kinda upped the ante as far as paying attention to the lyric. I can say he definitely upped my game and made me think more like a writer. So that’s been really good. And our focus on the show has been much more on the songs even though we have a heavy instrumental slant too, but we said that the song is the most important part. Whatever serves the song, that’s where we’re going.
PK: I’ll just quickly add that I had to raise my guitar playing game to play with Sue. When you are standing there on stage and do a solo…
SF: [interrupting with laughter] There’s a girl on the stage.
PK: Well, no, I didn’t say that at all. The thing is when I would do a solo and I would think hey that was a great solo. Then I would hear her do somethin’ and I’m like, fuck that was really! So now I have to up my game. So that’s been pretty healthy.
BW: And on the guitar playing, I love hearing “Plank Spank,” ’cause that takes me right back to one of your old songs, “Hooker Thing,” which was one of the first songs I fell in love with that you did because not enough people do Earl Hooker anything, let alone a female artist playing guitar.
SF: This is kind of an extension of that for sure. Same key. We had a lot of fun on that.
PK: When she brought that to the table I took it and I was like, hmm, I’m gonna play slide on this. What do I do on this because it’s such a busy tune? So we managed to integrate and break up the parts and make into something we could share back and forth. Again, I learned from her on that song a lot, how to write an instrumental. I’ve never really written instrumentals. I haven’t written an instrumental in 25 years, ya know, but I learned from her the power of the instrumental. It was a great challenge to play that with her.
BW: Onto your playing of the barrelhouse piano; you brought that onto this album more so.
PK: Yeah I’ve always played piano at my shows. I love it; it’s what I started on. The last record was a little more contemplative and this one was more of let’s just turn it up. Let’s just have some fun; let ‘er rip. That’s really about it. It lended itself to it.
BW: Alright, being on the road?
SF: Dot, dot, dot. [Laugh]
PK: First night of a six-week tour. So far, so good.
BW: I think I got you last time you were just starting out on the road. So you didn’t have much time on the road together, so tell me it’s been a couple years since we last sat down at this blue table here. Tell me a good story you have shared and learned from each other.
SF: [Rips into full laughter]
BW: Come on, keep it G-rated kids!
PK: [Starts pointing at his front teeth] Let’s see, this tooth, that tooth is false.
SF: Let’s just say that the dynamic and the things you hear on the stage also unfold elsewhere. So we didn’t write a song like “Rules of Engagement” about a fight because we had never fought. We had a lot of things to work out, are still working out stuff but it’s a process. It’s fun; it’s been good. We’re both leaders and had to renege some of our powers to make a proper power together.
PK: I think motivation, in this business is hard to stay motivated. You go on the road, play places, the same kind of places.
BW: Bad coffee.
PK: Bad coffee or whatever and night after night you start to feel like you are going through the motions. So working with Sue is you really can’t go through the motions. Because if somebody starts to go through the motions, somebody else stirs it up. And if we both go through the motions, then guaranteed we are going to have a knockdown, drag-out fight afterwards. We’ll criticize each other about not having our heads in the game.
SF: Let’s just say, we are both better for working together.
To be continued…
Kyle Palarino is a contributing editor at BluesWax.
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