John Németh

  • Sooner or Later
  • Three Times a Fool

Memphis Grease, the long-awaited follow up to Németh’s fourth solo studio release, 2010’s Name The Day!, embodies everything that sets this artist apart from the revivalist pack: it’s innovative and unique while epitomizing the absolute best of the genre. It’s a deeply forged amalgamation of scorching harmonica-driven blues and sweet blue-eyed soul ala the Box Tops or Roy Head, delivered via two fistfuls of originals and a trio of carefully chosen covers, including Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” reinvented here as a slow burning soul number that matches anything that came out of circa-late 1960s’ Muscle Shoals.

The album title itself is evocative of Németh’s journey to Memphis. The soul-blues scene he fell into in the Bay Area is historically referred to as “Oakland Grease,” and a pair of Oakland’s “greasiest” artists, guitarist Lowell Fulson and pianist Jimmy McCracklin, journeyed south to record two of their best, if often overlooked albums: Fulson’s funky psych-blues In A Heavy Bag and McCracklin’s soulful High on the Blues. For Németh, Memphis Grease is a natural concept that marries the techniques he honed in the Bay with the intuitiveness that flows between him and the Bo-Keys.

“When it comes to more traditional styles of music, people expect to hear a tribute record. But you can get into a real rut if you’re just doing rewrites,” Németh says. “We’re creating fresh music here. Our arrangements sound just like they would back then, but what we’re doing is so much more innovative.”

With the inter-generational combination of drummer Howard Grimes, guitarist Joe Restivo, Al Gamble on keyboards, producer Scott Bomar on bass, venerable soul vocalist Percy Wiggins singing background, and a killer horn section featuring Marc Franklin, Kirk Smothers, and Art Edmaisten, it’s a collaboration that sounds completely effortless. Together, Németh and the Bo-Keys take modern soul from a simmer to a full boil.

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