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In life as in music: Peter Karp and Sue Foley share their music and lives

Being a solo singer/songwriter can sometimes feel like “you’re drowning in a soup” of your own making, admitted blues artist Peter Karp.

Luckily, Sue Foley has been around to rescue Karp from any kind of sinking self-involvement since the two officially became a duo four years ago.

The two performers, who play together on Good Friday, April 18, at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer, are a couple in life as well as music.

They started collaborating in 2010 on He Said She Said, an intimate blues-tinged record that was inspired by their letters of deepening friendship and blossoming love.

The critically praised album sometimes sounded like an intimate confessional with songs about secret longing, tenderness and fears.

By the time their second CD, Beyond the Crossroads, was released in 2012, Foley and Karp were more familiar with each other.

And this comfort comes across on the upbeat release that surmounted the autobiographical constraints of the first record and began exploring looser themes.

Foley, a Juno and multiple-Maple Blues award-winning artist from Ontario, believes Crossroads illustrates the progression of their musical partnership.

“It’s pretty much a given, in life and music, that things keep moving along. ... We’ve been working together and playing together for several years now,” she added, so are clearly in a more laid-back place.

Karp, an acclaimed American blues artist, feels the first album was more introspective.

“With Crossroads, we are more looking outward and writing about what’s happening in the world.”

But, just like the Before Sunset movies that chronicle the evolving romantic relationship of a fictional Parisian/American couple, listeners can still pick up clues about where Karp and Foley are personally on songs such as Fine Love and You’ve Got a Problem (and it’s me!)

Now a third bluesy album from the duo is set for release in the late spring or early fall.

And Karp believes this yet-untitled record will continue in an upbeat vein and probably provide more glimpses into what they’re going through as musicians and people.

“Everything is biographical, in that it comes from experience,” he said.

But music “is not journalism. We’re not reporting on what’s going on with this or that.”

Rather, Karp believes their songs are only loosely based on their own experiences or those of other people they have observed.

Foley had a rootless childhood, travelling between Canadian towns with her mother.

At age 16, she started singing professionally.

She can still remember the first time she saw James Cotton and his Chicago blues band play at a club.

“I had only seen music performed in a stadium before, and I was just struck by the immediacy of the music. The energy travelled through me, like a shot. I thought, wow! What was that? The music is designed to lift your spirits. ... It celebrates the human experience.”

Foley was living in Texas and recording for a blues label by age 21.

Her first release, Young Girl Blues, established her unique talents as a guitarist and songwriter.

She has since shared stages with BB King, Buddy Guy, Lucinda Williams and Tom Petty.

Foley won a Juno Award for her critically acclaimed 2005 CD Love Coming Down, as well as 17 Maple Blues Awards over the years.

She now lives part time in Ontario and with Karp in Nashville, where the two are recording.

Karp is a New Jersey native who grew up largely in Alabama, after his air force pilot father moved the family south — which he admitted was a different world than he had been used to.

His father got remarried to a woman of an African-American descent, who raised Karp.

“I grew up with a respect and understanding” for another culture, he said.

But Karp’s stepmother told him from a young age that he would never really know what it really means to be black and he understands why that is now.

Karp came to national attention as a singer/songwriter with help from former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, who recorded with Karp on his first label release, The Turning Point, and later toured with him. Critics have compare his songwriting to that of John Hiatt and John Prine.

Although Karp and Foley started out each writing their own songs on their debut album as a duo, there’s now enough trust between them that they regularly co-write and run their compositions by each other.

“We have our own ideas, but we also fuel each other’s ideas,” said Foley, who believes collaboration intensifies the creative process.

By working together, “we’re finding new territory,” added Karp.

Tickets to their 9 p.m. show are $20 from Fratters. For more information, call 403-356-0033.

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