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CD Review -- John Nemeth

JOHN NEMETH

 Love Me Tonight

Blind Pig Records

 john nemeth cd art

By Mike Baum

In my mind, artists that truly keep the blues alive and vibrant are those that respect and pay homage to the masters in their music, but also interject their own experiences, creativity and stylings to deliver unique contributions to the art form, making it richer than it was before.  John Németh certainly fits that bill with his sophomore effort for the Blind Pig label, Love Me Tonight, released in early 2009.

John is one of the younger contemporary bluesmen on the scene today at age 31, and he has quickly established himself as a formidable singer/songwriter/harmonica player.  He comes from an unconventional blues background: His father is a Hungarian immigrant, and John was raised in Boise, Idaho, listening to Hungarian folk songs (played at extremely high volumes, according to John!) and singing in his church choir.  He was first turned on to the blues when a high-school buddy introduced him to Junior Wells’ classic Delmark album Hoodoo Man Blues.  From that point forward, he was hooked, and worked on his singing and harmonica work through several local bands while growing up.

John continued to hone his craft under the tutelage of notable West Coast bluesman Junior Watson, and eventually moved to San Francisco in 2004.  He filled in for an ailing Sam Myers with Anson Funderburgh’s band, and his growing reputation landed him a recording contract with Blind Pig shortly thereafter.  His first Blind Pig album Magic Touch was released in 2007, and featured guitar work from both Junior Watson and Anson Funderburgh.  It received critical acclaim and was nominated for a Blues Music Award (BMA) for “Best New Artist Debut.” 

Love Me Tonight builds from his debut album, this time with an established band that includes Bobby Welsh on guitars and keyboards, Dmitry Gorodetsky on Fender bass, Kedar Roy on acoustic and Fender bass, and June Core on drums.  The album also features special guest Elvin Bishop playing guitar on two cuts.  (Elvin is returning the favor, as John supplied vocals and harp on his latest release on Delta Groove Music, The Blues Rolls On, nominated for a Grammy and BMA 2009 Album of the Year.) 

Love Me Tonight includes 10 originals, and one sensational cover of an old Falcons’ tune – “She’s My Heart’s Desire” – one of the two songs featuring Elvin Bishop, and I definitely hear traces of the late, great Robert Ward in that song as well (which may not be that far-fetched, since Robert did some work with the Falcons).  Just noting that John employs both electric and stand-up acoustic bass in his original songs provides hints that you will be getting a very eclectic mix of blues on this album.

Many classify Love Me Tonight as a contemporary spin on classic '50s and ‘60s Chicago-style blues, and while that theme is definitely prevalent, I also picked up other influences: “Too Good to Be True” and “My Troubled Mind” have Texas blues and soul elements to them; “Love Gone Crazy” sounds like something producer Bob Thiele would have done with T-Bone Walker in the late ‘60s (John’s voice even sounds like T-Bone on this song!). Songs like the opening/title track, the autobiographical “Country Boy,” the inspirational “Fuel for Your Fire,” and “Too Good To Be True” with its driving bass line, further position John to be considered a top contemporary blues songwriter, an elite group that (in my book) includes people like Larry Garner and the late Paul deLay (another great blues harp singer/songwriter from the West Coast).   

All-in-all, Love Me Tonight offers something for everyone and will certainly not bore.  See what the critics and other blues musicians have been raving about and check out this new disc from John Németh!

Note: John Németh will be making a rare Chicago appearance at Buddy Guy’s Legends on Sunday, April 26.  Make plans to see the man in person!

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