Expect Nemeth to set a very high bar at the opening of Bluesdays!
June 30, 2011
Name the day. Let’s make it Tuesday.
John Nemeth, a soulful singer with tasteful harmonica licks, opens on July 5 two months of free Tuesday shows at Squaw Valley Village. Bluesdays! will feature national touring artists, including a couple of rising European women, Ana Popovic and Joanne Shaw Taylor, two more silver-throated singers, Curtis Salgado and Chris Cain, and one of today’s greatest gunslinger guitarists, Ronnie Baker Brooks.
Nemeth is a late replacement for the opening performance of Bluesdays!, but he could hardly be considered anything but a headliner.
“Nemeth’s impressive and he just does it like it’s nothing,” said Elvin Bishop, who has featured the young singer on three of his last four albums.
And Nemeth has been cranking out his own albums, too. He has three with Blind Pig Records since 2007, “Magic Touch,” “Love Me Tonight” and, in 2010, “Name The Day.”
Another one is in the works.
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“I’m writing material,” Nemeth told Lake Tahoe Action. “I’ve got about seven or eight tunes, real good ones. I’d like to have another seven or eight by time fall comes around and maybe try to record something in the fall and have it out by next year.”
A native of Idaho, the bluesman is from a state better known for potatoes, outdoor sports and a senator with a wide stance on the issues. Nemeth moved to San Francisco chasing a girl and to sign with Blind Pig Records. He is one of today’s busiest touring artists, but his schedule has shortened this year to about 160 shows. When this blues reporter visited Memphis in February, Nemeth was playing at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street.
“I’ve played in five or six countries this last month and we’re going back a couple more times,” Nemeth said. “We recently had our first baby, but we’ll be hitting it pretty hard until fall.”
Did the baby inherit her parents’ musicianship?
“She has nice tone,” Nemeth said. “I haven’t really heard her mother sing because she doesn’t sing that much around me but she has been singing to the baby. You never know. She might to be a singer or be just like her Grandma Jean, tone deaf. She couldn’t find a pitch to save her life.”
Nemeth has a vast knowledge of musical history and is a regular source for articles in Lake Tahoe Action. His style of music sounds like soul and blues from the 1950s and ’60s, and he said he was influenced by artists from that era – Magic Sam and gospel-turned soul singers Little Johnny Taylor and the lesser-known Howard Tate. He said his harp style is a combination of Little Walter and Junior Wells.
“He just reels it off,” Bishop said. “But I like the way he plays harp, too. He just kind of does what’s necessary. It’s the same taste driving both of them, the vocal and the harp.”
Nemeth agreed he has the same approach to vocals as to harmonica.
“The most important factor is being yourself in the song so you can communicate the story of it,” he said. “The energy of yourself comes through the record so you sort of have to make songs your own. Same with the harmonica. I don’t try to copy anybody. I just try to take the essence of the instrument and mold it into my own way of doing it.”
Nemeth sang Bishop’s most famous song, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” on the recently released “Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise – Elvin Bishop’s Raisin’ Hell Revue.” Former Tahoe resident Mickey Thomas sang the original version.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bishop said. “Some of the reviews have been saying, ‘We didn’t think anybody could sing that song after Mickey Thomas but Nemeth topped him.’ Most people don’t have the nerve. If you’re going to cover something that’s really well known and already ingrained in people’s consciousness, then I think you need to be careful to make sure you’re making some kind of improvement.”