OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — John Nmeth's golden voice is so sweet it has spurred some concert-goers to wonder, why does the singer even bother to also play harmonica?“People say you'd probably be famous if you didn't play the harmonica,” Nmeth said. “Until somebody comes along and gives me a bunch of money to put it down and make some record where I don't play it at all with some hopes that it may be some sort of pop hit, I'll entertain that; but until that day, I'm going to have as much fun as I can playing that damn harmonica.”There is no question a Nmeth show is fun. The songs are blues and soul and have a vintage flavor, sounding like they could come from the 1960s or even '50s eras.Nmeth's decision to play harmonica was based on economics.“I'd gone to price out a piano — way too expensive,” he said. “I didn't have that kind of money. But I had $6 for a harmonica. Maybe I wouldn't be the frontman I am today if I had to sit behind a piano.”Nmeth has left his record label and set his own trail with this week's official release of a pair of independent albums featuring his two styles, “Blues Live” and “Soul Live.” His new path isn't a circuitous as the one he took after a Bluesdays appearance at Squaw Valley a year ago.The morning after his show, Nmeth took a hike, which turned into a sort of a mountain climbing expedition. With an unusually heavy spring snowfall, there were wintery conditions at higher elevations last July.“I got stuck because it got too slippery,” Nmeth said. “It took me forever for figure out a way down out of that place. I finally did, and I didn't break anything or scratch anything up.”Nmeth returns to Bluesdays on Tuesday, July 10, his third appearance at the four-year concert series which has weekly shows in July and August. A native of Idaho, Nmeth has played plenty of mountain resorts so he says Olympic Valley's altitude doesn't hurt his singing or harp playing.Known more for Boise State's blue football field than its blues music, Idaho was where Nmeth was discovered and recruited by Junior Watson and Anson Funderburgh to join their respective bands. “I got my chops just playing five to seven nights a week in Boise and southern Idaho for eight or nine years playing college bars and weddings and taverns and logger day festivals, you name it,” Nmeth said. “The coolest thing about it is we played blues and all the old standards for years before I ever started writing my own music. By learning that stuff and coming up with your own arrangements of standards and stuff like that, and just doing it every night, you'll get your chops that way. That's for sure.”After leaving Funderburgh's band, Nmeth made solo two studio albums before moving to the Bay Area where he released three more with Blind Pig Records. He has just released two live albums featuring his greatest hits.Kid Andersen, the Norwegian guitarist who now plays with Rick Estrin andamp; the Nightcats (replacing Little Charlie Baty), mixed the album at his Greaseland Records studio. Nmeth was the producer. While Andersen plays on the records, guitar solos are played by Nmeth's former band member Bob Welsh and his current shredder, A.C. Miles. The recordings are from three shows at San Jose's Poor House Bistro, San Francisco's Biscuits and Blues and the Point Arena Theater. Nmeth has plenty of new material which he said he will play at Bluesdays, but with a toddler at home and a busy touring schedule it's difficult to get into a studio.“I've got three consecutive six-week tours booked and a four-week tour after all of those,” Nmeth said. “I was just talking to the band about this. We're working, running around the country making a living, playing blues. So it must be we're doing pretty good.”“People always say the blues is going away ... but they don't realize there's always going to be musicians who want to play this music and it's the musicians that really keep it alive. It's not the music industry. The music industry is more scared of this music than probably anything else because it inspires creativity and other styles of music, so in that case it hinders their cookie-cutter formulas that they have and the fact that they control the industry easier without bands having too much of their own sound.”
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