John Németh

Name the Day!

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Despite the fast turnaround, John Nemeth's second album in two years (and third in four) is another winner for the blue-eyed soulful singer/harpist. As on his previous release, all but one of the 11 tracks is a Nemeth original and there's been no lapse in quality. That alone is impressive, especially considering his extensive touring during the year it took to return to the studio and crank out another 40 minutes of tough, committed R&B. The singer's sweetly rugged vocals remain his calling card, but Nemeth is also a harp player worthy of standing with some of modern-day blues and soul music's finest. Unlike similar soul/blues singer/harpists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, and Darrell Nulisch who tend to reserve their harp skills in the studio for just a few songs, Nemeth plays plenty of harmonica throughout these 11 tracks, many of which are further energized by a three-piece horn section. Some of the songs, such as the straight-ahead shuffle of "Heartbreak with a Hammer" and the somewhat clichéd girl-you-been-doing-me-wrong lyrics of "You Know," aren't exactly breaking new ground either conceptually or melodically, but Nemeth is such a dynamic presence that he makes them sound invigorated, if not necessarily innovative. Much of the set is upbeat, but Nemeth really shines on the gospelized, Otis Redding-influenced "Why Not Me" and "I Said Too Much," two ballads that display the power and flexibility of his voice. Much of the success of the disc is due to its production by artist and co-producer (and guitarist, although he does not play here) Kid Andersen, a terrific solo artist on his own. Between them and horn arranger Mike Rinta, the sound is open and crackling, referencing classic R&B but never succumbing to anything too retro. That keeps Nemeth's approach fresh, even as he recalls great R&B singers of the past such as Redding and Solomon Burke, both of whom have recorded this disc's only cover, Otis Blackwell's "Home in Your Heart." The sunshiny title track and the Southern funk of "Do You Really Want That Woman" are strong enough to be mistaken for classic tunes, but are newly penned by the artist. They show that Nemeth's strengths aren't confined to his vocals, harp, and production but that his songwriting talents are every bit as vital, perhaps more so. Put succinctly, in the world of contemporary soul/blues, John Nemeth is the whole package.

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