"I can always tell where I’m going by the record I do,” singer-songwriter Peter Karp says, “because usually a year or two later I’m living some of the songs.”

With that in mind, consider the dozen tunes on Shadows and Cracks, Karp’s debut album for San Francisco-based Blind Pig Records, the artist’s window to the future. It’s a future, incidentally, that covers the spectrum of the human experience—from heartbreak and regret to happiness and hope and many points in between—but it’s by no means one that he intends to keep all to himself. “I think a lot of these stories come from real-life things,” Karp says, “but I still try to clue everybody in on it and not make it too personal.”

Peter Karp

You might say that Karp, who spent his formative years bouncing between places like rural South Carolina and the urban sprawl of the Northeast, is an old soul living in the 21st century. His witty, lyrical compositions pinpoint the human condition with intelligent precision, and they recall an earlier time when the power of music could simply be found in words, and not studio trickery, slick videos, or exploding stage shows. He’s also among a number of contemporary artists whose music is heavily steeped in Americana sounds and styles—and whose rhythmic foundations are powered by Gibson acoustics: Alabama-born Grayson Capps, who won raves for 2006’s Wail and Ride (Hyena), owns a classic 1947 LG-7; and Todd Snider, an artist with a sense of humor that has earned him legions of devotees, plays an Epiphone EJ-200, not to mention an Epiphone Dot Cherry electric.

Karp, meanwhile, propelled Shadows and Cracks with a J-185 cutaway, and he’ll also use an L4-A. And on the subject of Gibson acoustics, you could say he’s got special reverence for a man who was once famously photographed holding an L-1.

“I can’t think of any greater singer-songwriter than Robert Johnson,” Karp says. “He’s a guy who wrote these songs 70 years ago, played them on his acoustic, and his themes and stories are still as relevant today as they were back then. To me, those old blues dudes were the original singer-songwriters So the acoustic guitar is really the acid test. Actually creating a song and playing it on an acoustic is my favorite thing in the world.”


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