|Many an artist dreams of making a pilgrimage to the source of their inspiration and to commune with the muse. Idaho born John Németh made that trek moving to Memphis from the West Coast in 2013, entrenching himself in the city’s rich and historic musical scene. The two-time Blues Music Award (BMA) winner and multi-BMA nominee soon fell in with producer Scott Bomar, who leads the Memphis Soul band, The Bo-Keys, and is the owner and operator of the acclaimed Electraphonic Recording studios to create the album of Soul classics “Memphis Grease” in 2014. Németh returned to Electraphonic in December of 2019 with his seasoned road band of young gun players, The Blue Dreamers, featuring 19 year old guitar phenom from Philadelphia, Jon Hay, drummer Danny Banks and Matt Wilson on bass for a rough and rowdy southern swamp roots session resulting in his 10th album, “Stronger Than Strong.” The dozen new tracks feature soaring soul blues tenor and hot blues harp playing that has garnered Németh a loyal fan base and international attention for over twenty years.
Bomar capitalized on the chemistry of Németh’s small combo, capturing the intimate, live off the floor, definitively retro sound. Some very fuzzy tones from Hay’s lead guitar fill the air on the Hill Country two-beat opener ‘Come And Take It’ that works the dynamic spectrum with precision. The Fat Possum influence can be felt hard on the rambling ‘Fountain Of A Man’ with Danny Banks getting a chance to roll out all his formidable chops. Németh is a serious student of history, who is well known for mining the depths of early R&B. He once again rejuvenates a lost gem by setting the 1958 Little Junior Parker B side ‘Sometimes,’ to a slower swamp pop tempo, and tremolo-saturated guitar riffs from Hay help with milking the emotion out of the lyrics. The boys in the band do their best hippy-hippy-shag boogie while Németh pleads for mercy on the rockin’ ‘Throw Me In the Water.’ The straight-ahead shuffle, ‘Chain Breaker,’ is a tasty serving of driving Chicago Blues, with Németh and Hay playing the roles of Wolf and Sumlin to perfection.
Wilson’s sublime bass line brings us into the soul blues commentary ‘Bars,’ on which Németh uses hit razor-sharp wit to examine the troubles we are enduring in the world today with just enough humor to keep us from crying. He continues his mission to spread goodwill on the gospel-fueled ‘I Can See Your Love Light Shine,’ and the dancehall number ‘Deprivin’ A Love.’ He then gets down to business on the slinky ‘Work For Love,’ plying his vocal charms and formidable skills on the blues harp. John pays tribute to another unsung R&B hero with a faithful reading of the ballad ‘Guess Who,’ the biggest hit for singer/songwriter Jesse Belvin, whose life was cut short at 27 years old in 1959. Matthew Wilson also pulls double duty on the track playing guitar and bass. Németh further shows off his love for classic R&B on the swinging doo-wop inspired ‘She’s My Punisher,’ before closing the set with the feel good boogaloo ‘Sweep The Shack’ that playfully utilizes familiar blues music euphemisms from Németh and more strong lead guitar from Hay. “Stronger Than Strong” from John Németh is another fine benchmark in the tireless working blues man’s career.
As a teenager in the early ‘90s growing up in the muddy potato fields of Idaho, John Németh was drawn to the hard-edged hip hop sounds and rock bands of the day, until a friend, Tom Moore, introduced him to the Junior Wells and Buddy Guy classic “Hoodoo Man Blues.” Together they formed Fat John & the 3 Slims, which is still regarded as a legendary band in the Boise region. John played harp and sang in local bands, often opening the show for nationally touring blues acts and quickly caught the ear of established blues musicians. It didn’t take long before he was releasing his own recordings, “The Jack Of Harps” (2002) and “Come And Get It” (2004), featuring Junior Watson, and performing in Junior Watson’s band.
John relocated to San Francisco in 2004, where he had the bitter-sweet good fortune to undertake a two-year stint with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, filling in for the ailing Sam Myers. Németh immersed himself in the deep musical waters of the Bay area, absorbing more of the soul and funk grooves of what he calls “the early East Bay Grease sound” of San Francisco and Oakland bands.
John’s talents did not go unnoticed and he soon signed a recording contract with Blind Pig Records. His national debut for that label, “Magic Touch” (2007), produced by Anson Funderburgh and featuring Junior Watson on guitar, received an ecstatic response from fans and the media, and he was hailed as the new voice of the blues. Living Blues enthused, “Magic Touch gives hope that the blues will survive.” In 2008 Németh was recruited by Elvin Bishop to do some performances and contribute four vocal tracks to his Grammy-nominated album “The Blues Rolls On.”
Németh released two more albums on the Blind Pig label, “Love Me Tonight” (2009) & “Name The Day (2010), both hitting #6 on the Billboard Blues Chart, and beginning his long string of Blues Music Award (BMA) nominations, numbering 20 at last count. John has also won two Blues Blast Music Awards – Best New Artist Debut Recording and Sean Costello Rising Star Award. John followed up with two independently released live albums in 2012, “Blues Live” and “Soul Live.”
In 2013 John relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, where he teamed up with producer Scott Bomar and his classic Memphis Soul band, the Bo-Keys, to create an album of revisited soul classics, “Memphis Grease” (2014 Blue Corn), which debuted at #4 on the Billboard Blues Chart. John won the 2104 BMA for Best Soul Blues Male Artist, followed by “Memphis Grease” winning Best Soul Blues Album in 2015.
In 2017 Németh released “Feelin’ Freaky” (produced by Luther Dickinson) on his own Memphis Grease label, crushing all barriers of style and genre with an album of original songs that defied all the usual pigeonholes, drawing from his strong influences in blues and R&B, as well as contemporary sounds in hip hop and rock ‘n’ roll. Later that same year, Németh was part of a side project “The Love Light Orchestra Featuring John Németh” recorded live at one of Memphis’ favorite watering holes, Bar DKDC. The 10-piece band was initially envisioned by guitarist Joe Restivo, vocalist John Németh and arranger/trumpeter Marc Franklin.
Németh returned to Electraphonic in December of 2019 with his seasoned road band of young gun players, The Blue Dreamers, featuring 19 year-old guitar phenom from Philadelphia, Jon Hay, drummer Danny Banks and Matt Wilson on bass for a rowdy southern swamp roots session resulting in his 10th album, “Stronger Than Strong” demonstrating, yet again, his uncanny ability to skillfully blend retro and modern blues and soul into compelling music that is simultaneously old and new.