John Németh – Memphis Grease | Album Review

johnnemethcd6John Németh – Memphis Grease

Blue Corn Music 

CD: 13 songs; 53:53 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Harmonica Blues, Soul-Influenced Blues

What is a genius? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a very smart or talented person; a person who has a level of talent or intelligence that is very rare or remarkable.” By these criteria, not only was Albert Einstein one of these, but also Frank Lloyd Wright, the recently-departed Maya Angelou, Babe Ruth, and Boise, Idaho’s John Németh. The latter is a genius in soulful vocals, keen songwriting, and being an absolute wunderkind of blues harp. One need only listen to his eighth album, “Memphis Grease,” in order to hear proof. Performing with him are the Bo Keys: drummer Howard Grimes, Scott Bomar on Fender bass and percussion, Al Gamble on keyboards and background vocals, guitarist Joe Restivo, trumpeter and horn arranger Marc Franklin, Kirk Smothers on tenor sax, Art Edmaiston on baritone sax, and background vocalist Percy Wiggins. Also featured on background vocals are Susan Marshall, Reba Russell, and Christopher, Calvin, and Courtney Barnes. Out of thirteen songs – ten originals and three covers – these three are ‘blues IQ tests’ in which Németh  scores a 200:

Track 03: “Her Good Lovin’” – With a stomping harmonica-and-drum intro and funky ‘70s style, track three is a surefire original hit for the dance floor. “She got the rhythm from her head to her feet; her good lovin’ just can’t be beat.” So goes the understated yet infectious chorus, which is certain to have crowds at bars and festivals singing along. Beautifully-harmonized vocals repeat “Her good love…” as John continues his description of the gal of his dreams. 

Track 05: “If It Ain’t Broke” – Two songs later, Németh  and his posse give advice on what to do to keep a loyal partner around: that is, don’t try to change or mess with the partner you already have. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When you’ve got it good, don’t nix it. If you take it straight, don’t mix it. Don’t go looking to fix some good lovin’ if it ain’t broke.” Doubtlessly, this is the best soul number on “Memphis Grease.” 

Track 10: “Bad Luck Is My Name” – Time for some rip-roaring blues! Track ten won’t fail purists in the least. Revel in Joe Restivo’s take-no-prisoners electric guitar on the intro and throughout the song. “I was riding high,” Németh sings ruefully. “Everybody knew my name. Now the tables are turned: bad luck is my name.” No matter where one stands in relation to the wheel of fortune, one will love the perfect marriage of Németh’s harp and Restivo’s riffs. 

In the CD liner notes, writer Andria Lisle reveals, “The preternaturally talented son of a Hungarian immigrant, Németh  fronted his first band at 18 and went on to work with such venerable artists as Junior Watson, Anson Funderburgh and Elvin Bishop before landing in Memphis.” This harmonica genius has a lot of “Memphis Grease” and top-notch blues skills!

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