Never judge a book by its cover goes the old cliché — and the same obviously applies to CDs. Born and bred in Boise, Idaho, John Nemeth, the astounding singer-harmonica player, may be looking all GQ on the sleeve of Love Me Tonight, but the content is anything but. Nemeth continues a direction he initiated on his acclaimed debut album with a sound that blends Chicago-style retro blues with soul while adding a contemporary approach. It's a very "live" sounding record, short on frills and long on sincerity and unbridled emotion.
The title track alone is awash in up-tempo urgency, with a groove steeped in the Stax and Motown tradition. "Just Like You" then takes it down a notch with deliberately sparse production that spotlights Nemeth's raw and seductive vocals along with his harp blowing. "Fuel For Your Fire," meanwhile, wouldn't have sounded too out of place on an Otis Redding record. Elsewhere, one can hear traces of country blues ("Too Good to Be True"), Howlin' Wolf ("Daughter of the Devil"), Buddy Guy (the ballad "Blues in My Heart"), even Detroit's own Jackie Wilson ("She's My Heart's Desire").
It's pretty obvious throughout that Nemeth knows his Americana musical roots. The addition of blues guitar vet Elvin Bishop on a couple of songs only serves to further emphasize that point. That shouldn't detract from the fact, however, that Nemeth is the real deal in his own right. He writes and performs with an intensity that conveys a love and respect for what has come before him while forging his own youthful and individual path toward the future. Nemeth walks it like he talks it and hardcore blues lovers seeking something legitimate in a fairly bland current national scene should probably celebrate this fact.
John Nemeth plays Wednesday, April 29, at Callahan's, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills; 248-858-9508.
Eric Harabadian writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].