Since bursting onto the scene in 2007 with his dazzling national debut album (Magic Touch), John Németh has wowed critics and audiences alike with his riveting vocals and harmonica prowess. The Philadelphia Inquirer testified to his standing in the current music scene with the comment, "Classic soul and R&B styles have been revitalized by artists such as James Hunter, Eli 'Paperboy' Reed, and Sharon Jones. You can include John Németh on any list of the best of them."
On his latest release, Name The Day!, the dynamic soul sensation continues to reinvigorate vintage American rhythm and blues with his uncanny ability to skillfully blend retro and modern blues and soul into compelling music that is simultaneously old and new.
With Name The Day! Németh has crafted another timeless slice of American music. Drawing on the classic blues, soul, and R&B influences that inform his stunning vocal style, John lays down a set of tunes that wouldn't sound a bit out of place in the golden years of Memphis or Muscle Shoals. His spine-tingling vocals, with echoes of the toughness of James Brown and the tenderness of Solomon Burke, infuse the album with a funky, soulful feeling.
And the hard-hitting, edgy R&B sound from his earlier award-winning releases is still there, but with an expanded tonal palate and a heightened craftsmanship. Tracks like the merciless "Breaking Free" and the punchy "Tuff Girl" showcase soul-revue arrangements replete with a full horn section, Hammond organ, and piano accompaniment. The loping, laid-back Southern-fried rhythm section sits in the pocket, the sinewy Cropper-esque guitars weave in and out, all supporting the tremulous, gospel-tinged tenor voice that has burned up stages across the land.
John's origins seem an unlikely breeding ground for such an impressive blues talent. A native of Boise, Idaho, he started playing in local bands as a teenager after a high school classmate exposed him to the blues, playing John a copy of Junior Wells' "Snatch It Back and Hold It." "I had never heard anything like it," Németh told Blues Revue, "I listened to that song and the record Hoodoo Man Blues for hours."
National artists visiting Boise were impressed when they heard the powerful vocals of the young Németh. While touring with veteran singer Frankie Lee, guitarist/producer Scott Cable heard John first hand when Németh was invited on stage between sets. "I was totally shocked," Cable recalled in a Blues Revue interview, "I couldn't believe that voice was coming out of that guy."
Cable introduced Németh to West Coast guitarist Junior Watson. "When John's band opened for mine, I knew instantly that he had a great talent," Watson says. "His voice is a national treasure."
After two independently released CDs and a stint in Junior Watson's band, John relocated from Boise to San Francisco in 2004. Shortly afterwards, when Sam Myers, vocalist with Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets fell ill, Németh was recruited to take his place. He would stand in for the great Myers for the next two years, building a growing reputation among established musicians. All the while, John was absorbing the rich musical legacy of the Bay Area. His bluesy style gradually took on more of the soul and funk of what Németh calls "the early East Bay Grease sound," that he heard on 45s from Oakland and San Francisco artists.
In a 2005 interview with Blues Revue, Muddy Waters Band alumnus Bob Margolin said, "I remember telling friends up North in '80 that they should go see Stevie Ray Vaughan, but they weren't impressed because he wasn't famous yet. It will give me great pleasure to say, ‘I told you so!' about John Németh. You'll see."
The growing buzz caught the attention of Blind Pig Records, and Németh was signed to a recording contract. His national debut for the label, Magic Touch, produced by Anson Funderburgh and featuring Junior Watson on guitar, was released in 2007 to instant acclaim and immediately established John as an up and coming star to be reckoned with. Blues Revue called the release "one of the most exciting blues debuts of the past year," while Living Blues said "Magic Touch gives hope that the blues will survive." Hittin' The Note raved, "Németh stands completely apart from the pack on the strength and distinctiveness in his voice. What a record! Németh can croon, wail, growl a bit, and soar. He pulls together some of the best aspects of classic soul and blues."
Magic Touch also garnered a 2008 Blues Music Awards nomination in the "Best New Artist Debut" category. More recently, John won two Blues Blast Music Awards - for "Best New Artist Debut Recording" and "Sean Costello Rising Star Award" - voted on by nearly 11,000 blues fans.
Tom Mazzolini, promoter of the San Francisco Blues Festival, called Németh "an incredible talent, one of the new generation of blues that's carrying us on for a long time. This is a major talent in your presence." And blues icon Elvin Bishop was so taken with John's talent that he asked Németh to sing four tracks on Bishop's Grammy-nominated CD and then invited John to be featured with him on the nationally syndicated radio program, "Prairie Home Companion." Says Elvin, "He's my idea of an up-and-coming blues singer. I don't see a lot of them out there, but I know one when I see him."
Németh's 2009 release, Love Me Tonight, confirmed his status as one of the most gifted artists on the current blues scene. The Seattle Times called Németh "the fastest rising star in the blues firmament, a supremely versatile performer who has made true believers of some of the biggest names in the business." The Philadelphia Daily News added, "blue-eyed bluesman John Németh proves a retro artist of a different stripe. The music has a driving, rock-‘n'-soul punch that makes him seem spiritual kin to long-gone stompers Sam Cook, Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson."
With his remarkable command of classic soul and love of the blues shining throughout, Name The Day!promises to cement John Németh's reputation as a singer of the highest order. Perhaps there's no better validation than the rather astounding observation by renowned critic Lee Hildebrand, features writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and Living Blues, who said, "John Nemeth...may be the best white blues singer ever."