John Nemeth: a young guy with more than a great voice

JOHN NEMETH Name the Day! (Blind Pig)
With his third album for Blind Pig in less than four years, it looks like John Nemeth aims to keep the momentum going strong. Name the Day! does that handsomely. The Bay-area based singer and harmonica player continues to demonstrate the level of taste, versatility and songwriting that makes him far more than a young guy with a great voice.

There’s plenty to love among these 11 tracks, but the song that may have you pressing the repeat button over and over again is “Do You Really Want That Woman,” a funky up-tempo number about the temptations of life on the road dressed up with a great horn arrangement and a killer hook. Nemeth sounds like a guy ready to give in to animal instincts, prompting background vocalists Steve Willis and Ed Earley to ask him the question that gives the song its title. The vocal harmonies recall the best of Three Dog Night. By the end of the song, its protagonist vows to remain faithful to “that good girl at home” after all. (Of course, we’re not sure if we can believe him.)

Like Curtis Salgado, Kim Wilson and Delbert McClinton, fellow harmonica-playing while soul blues singers, Nemeth’s brand of blues has a big umbrella, influenced as much as the Stax soul of Otis Redding as the blues of Junior Wells. The buoyant title track, one of 10 Nemeth originals, would have sounded right by Little Milton or Solomon Burke. Guitarist Bobby Welsh captures the spirit of the restrained playing Steve Cropper contributed to all those classic ‘60s Stax hits. “Tuff Girl” is in a similar vein, though with a bigger nod to Motown. “Heartbreak with a Hammer,” a straight-ahead blues shuffle, gives Welsh and Nemeth a little more time to stretch out as instrumentalists.

Nemeth also soars on the ballads. “I Said Too Much” and “Why Not Me” perhaps more than anything underscore the power of his vocal expression. “Funky Feelin'” ends on the disc on a high note, with some high-pitched harmonica work that reminds us that Nemeth is pretty darn good on that second instrument of his.

MAGIC SLIM AND THE TEARDROPS Raising the Bar (Blind Pig)
On his seventh studio disc for Blind Pig, Magic Slim sticks to the basics, just him and his three-piece backing band: guitars, bass, drums and straight-up Chicago electric blues. The guitarist and singer (aka Morris Holt) offers up a few originals (the shuffle “Do You Mean It,” the funky “Shame,” and the guitar workout “Treat Me the Way You Do”), but focuses mostly on covers, including “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” most closely associated with Albert King; “4:59 a.m.,” a fairly obscure song by Little Milton, and “Mama Talk to Your Daughter,” the oft-covered song by J.B. Lenoir. The bar Slim is raising here with his stinging leads and down-home vocals is helping to keep traditional blues alive — and that’s plenty.

BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE This is Big Audio Dynamite: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
What the hell was Joe Strummer was thinking when he kicked his partner Mick Jones out of the Clash in 1983 after the band finally hit the big time with Combat Rock? Whatever it was the joke was on Strummer since his revamped Clash lineup failed miserably while Jones soon found his stride with Big Audio Dynamite, a rock collective that blended dance music, sound effects and sociopolitical lyrics as a natural success to the experimentation the Clash explored on its landmark Sandinista album.

Twenty-five years later, This is Big Audio Dynamite still sounds like the work of band exploring new territory, even if the synths and drum effects sound a bit dated. Much of the time, Jones and his bandmates, including special effects wizard Don Letts, didn’t create songs so much as soundscapes with repeated guitar and keyboard figures and samples of spaghetti Western movie dialogue.

This double-disc edition collects a dozen remixes of key tracks like “E=MC2,” “Medicine Show” and “The Bottom Line” (most originally released as 12-inch singles) plus a few outtakes and alternate versions.

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