John Nemeth is one of those artists that you continually hear that you should see, that he’s great, and has a great style. Sometimes only in the area briefly, sometimes longer. But, I’m here to tell you that you DO need to take in a show.
He has a unique style and stage presence that can be both entertaining and intimidating. But he is grateful and generous to his audience and fans.
Somewhere between soul, blues, and the early years of rock, John straddles the divide with a wonderful sense of style!
Up on stage looking dead serious, sometimes holding stock still and looking straight ahead you might be wondering what’s going on, but if you take more than a moment to notice, you’ll see that he is taking in the music in full force and giving the band their time to shine out front as well.
His work with these young regional and national artists is an appreciation of the talent in our area and he has a knack for pulling up some of the most gifted artists that you will find. We are lucky that they are in the area too, because you need to see them to believe it, and then you’ll want to see them again!
The first song of the night that truly hit me was “Cry the Blues(Crying)”, A song that shows the depth of the bands ability to call back to the soulful sound that was coming out of the Delta in various parts of the country. A slow and deeply felt sound. John’s vocals blended perfectly into the beautiful guitar and keyboard work that carried full emotion and blanketed the room. With a drum line that carried a soft yet powerful heartbeat to the music.
Moving into a great upbeat tune, “Elbows on the Wheel”, where John’s searing harp work stands perfectly in line with the story of the song. Taking you on a journey of a man finding steady work but perfecting that beautiful harp as he rolls down the road. A great blue collar tune that is accessible to the entire audience! A moderately paced semi-funk but all blues straight ahead song built absolutely perfectly for John to show off his skills and the talent that he’s exercised over the years into a finely honed force. Matched with his vocals that stand in contrast to his sometimes foreboding image on stage, it is a fun and light hearted tune that will keep a smile firmly on your face!
Stepping right into a solid Blues boogie comes of a song that welcomes everyone to the floor and uplifts the audience no matter their age. “You Ain’t Too Old”, is a song that will get you on your feet no matter what age group you happen to be in. It was proved perfectly true as people of all ages hit the dance floor where the kids were shown how to dance and that there’s life constantly available in a beautifully fun format. It was one of those moments that you couldn’t help but smile and be filled with the optimism of what is to come for many of us and what is there in spades for those who are ahead of us already!
What has to be one of those most whimsical songs I’ve heard is “Kool-Aid Pickle.” Laced with innuendo and beautifully traditional mischievous lyrics that have heralded the Blues for decades. Sometimes getting us in trouble, but always entertaining to those who are ready for some fun. A slow and enthralling tune that keeps you solidly in place! Once again John’s vocals standout awesomely and the backing vocals are spot on for a fun and old school feeling song.
I could continue to go through every song of the night, but you need to experience them all for yourself to get a true feel for the party that’s going on. Because that’s what it was. John turned Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford Connecticut into a full on party that started out as a fun concert. You couldn’t help but to start laughing and dancing with your friends, many of them newly made that night.
With John on this night, and at his show the next day at 9 Wallis in Beverly MA, was John Hay (guitar/harmony vocals), Matthew Wilson (guitar/harmony vocals), Willie Stevens (organ/keys/harmony vocals), and Danny Banks (drums/harmony vocals).
A local prodigy who has been impressing people for years, including hitting the stage on David Letterman Late Show from CBS, to notoriety throughout the region. Danny Banks has got the talent and drive to keep climbing the ladder. I’ve seen him play bass and guitar in the past and he is quite gifted on anything he touches. But I have to say that his work with the drums on Friday night was some of the best I’ve ever seen. And truly his moment to shine with a full solo moment, it’s hard to put into words but it was the single best drum solo I can remember seeing. There was a story told and a method to the madness, pure passion and his whole heart and soul and body put to the limits in showing exactly what is possible with hard work and practice and the gift of talent to get there. When he finally brought that solo to a close (and sat back down) his face was full red from the energy he’d just put in. I hope that everyone gets the chance to witness his artistry very soon! Check out times and dates to experience Danny in person!
The youngest member of the band for the night was John Hay on guitar. There was so much soul and passion in each note you’d be hard pressed to wrap your head around it coming out of his young heart. With the influences of Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert Collins and others you can see the history taken seriously and put to work through his drive for a full honest sound. He can run from hard driving Blues Rock, and right into the deep and searing soul sounds that you have come to love from the greats over the years. For me he absolutely held the audience rapt with his soulful slow Blues solos and melody. His sound would be right at home in Chicago, Texas, Memphis, NYC, and Louisiana. The shear breadth of sound he puts out is astonishing and not to be missed! Make sure you keep your eyes open for his own band playing anywhere nearby, or maybe take a road trip to catch some fine music that will ride all the way home with you.
Matthew Wilson, also on guitar and backing vocals, has a style that is a blend of the classic electric guitar of the 50’s but with a bend you heard become that glorious standard of the 70’s. Modifying the sound of the guitar so that it sounds like a completely different instrument that carries a whole new set of feelings but still the same soul, you’ll find that a sound you thought you might not like is actually a sound that will make perfect sense and one you will like nearly instantly when you see it put to work as a voice of the Blues out of a generation that is carrying the new sounds forward and bringing the roots right along with them.
Willie Stevens is someone who is ready to give his colleagues a run for their money. Full of energy and passion, he attacks the organ and keys for a perfect boogie, a charming slow blues, and a rocking tumble that keeps up and sometimes outstripped the rest of the band in a high flying melody that takes you on the ride of a party bound for dawn without slowing down.
John has a talent for truly putting together a band of local, regional, and national musicians that build into a solid and fluid machine of music. His commitment that each member has a moment to stand front and center throughout the night is indicative of an artist that knows he’s got a good foundation around him and an appreciation for each of their talents. Even standing stock still, you’ll catch him sometimes glimpse briefly over to the artist in their solo, or see a quick smile cross his face. And in his playing off of them often all at once or sometimes one on one, my favorite moments being his playing directly to and off of Danny.
John tours through the area a few times a year, which means you’re going to see him around again, and you had best make sure you see him face to face.
*This review was not solicited by the musicians or venue.