|Musicians are always among the first to respond in times of crisis and offer up aid and lend their time and talents to support a cause. When word got around that award-winning bluesman John Németh was facing surgery to treat a potentially career-ending and life-threatening illness, several of his old friends stepped up to help him record May Be The Last Time, before his operation.
Organized by vaunted guitarist Kid Andersen, who hosted the sessions at his Greaseland studios in California and brought in fellow West Coast musicians and living legends Elvin Bishop and his Big Fun Trio (Bob Welsh and Willy Jordan) with Alabama Mike joining in for good measure. For two days in May this year, they recorded old favorites and new tunes from Németh in a freewheeling jam session that resulted in eleven new tracks that capture the urgency and cathartic essence of the music and the brotherhood they share.
The set opens with a heart-felt interpretation of “The Last Time,” a traditional Gospel chorus made famous by The Staples Singers, with Németh taking joyous liberties with the lyrics. The fellas then burn through the Elvin Bishop Band classic from 1972 “Rock Bottom;” the lowdown blues never sounded so good. Németh examines life’s lessons on a stripped-down version of his tune, “Sooner Or Later,” that first appeared on his Memphis Grease album that won the Blues Music Award (BMA) for “Best Soul Blues Album” in 2015. Andersen struts the upright bass on a swinging arrangement of J.B. Lenoir’s social commentary from 1966, “Feeling Good,” that remains poignant to this day. No one else could deliver the vocals the way he does, so it goes without saying that Bishop stepped up to the mic to lead the band through his swampy romp “Stealin’ Watermelons.”
Németh then demonstrates his award-winning vocal chops on the Wilson Picket soul classic “I Found A Love,” performed as a duet with Willy Jordan. The crew has some fun with “Sexy Ways,” from early rhythm & blues and doo-wop pioneer, Hank Ballard of The Midnighters. Németh steps into the shoes of Junior Wells for the bump and grind blues “Come On In This House.” Welsh plays honky-tonk piano on another tune from Memphis Grease, the rollicking road song “Elbows On The Wheel,” and Jordan thumps the Cajon hard during the Slim Harpo blues ramble “Shake Your Hips.” The session ends on an upbeat note via the foot stomping Elvin Bishop tune “I’ll Be Glad,” and all its cockeyed optimism.
As a teenager in the early ‘nineties 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. 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. 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 BMA nominations, numbering 27 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. 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, for a rowdy southern swamp roots session resulting in his 10th album, “Stronger Than Strong;” his Nola Blue Records’ debut that garnered a BMA nomination for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” and placed at #4 on the Billboard Blues chart. Earlier this year, Restivo, Franklin and Németh released The Love Light Orchestra’s debut studio album, “Leave The Light On,” also on Nola Blue, reaching #15 on the Billboard Blues chart. And, in 2022, Németh took home the BMA award for “Best Instrumentalist – Vocals.”