John Németh - Magic Touch
12 songs; 44:25 minutes; Reference Quality
Styles: Contemporary Blues, Retro-Modern Blues, Soul-Blues
How does one measure the quality of an album? I have previously suggested different ways. Examples are: (1) How many listens did it take until one liked the CD? (2) Did any song or songs stick in your head? (3) Does one still play the album, even beyond the normal point of diminishing marginal utility? (4) Does your spouse like it, too? Reflecting back on “Magic Touch” which was released January 30, 2007, I see an album that easily passed every test as it broke John Nemeth to a world wide audience and Big-Industry-Buzz status.
There is no sense denying it; one might as well say it out loud: when it comes to the best young, white, contemporary blues singers, John Németh and Andrew Duncanson of The Kilborn Alley Blues Band are in the top five with Nemeth holding my personal list’s number one spot.
John Németh (pronounced like the Jets quarterback, Joe Namath) is, by now, a bona fide blues star with still rising stock. He is steeped in tradition and with incredible dynamic vocal range. A harmonica player of riveting intensity and virtuosity, he can also put on an audience pleasing stage show like playing a mid song solo on harmonica with just drums. Then, playing like a pied piper on the harp, leading the crowd up and down with every note, he will have some call and response with the audience where they will yell, “Hey” when Németh does a stop.
Németh’s number one spot on my personal “Best Singer” list came from bumping out number two with his vocal power. I witnessed it at a live show with Junior Watson on guitar. They were heavily into the second set of music, when on “The Pawnbroker,” it looked like Junior Watson, a California guitarist with nearly thirty years of experience and cult status, was going to steal the show. Not to be out done, especially since he was the top billed artist on tour, Németh laid the microphone down and filled the room with his powerful voice, singing without amplification!
“Magic Touch,” over time, will be regarded as an essential piece to appreciating music of the 2000 – 2009 decade. For the music styles it presents, there is not another CD to compare with Junior Watson showcasing some of his most wonderful guitar playing, Anson Funderburgh producing and playing guitar, Mark Kazinoff leading the well placed, not over the top, horns, and John Németh himself writing songs and playing harmonica as well as singing.
“Magic Touch,” the title song, and “You’re An Angel” are examples of stay-in-your-head songs that also got air play and appeared on juke boxes nationwide. As I am writing this, my brain is repeating the bouncy chorus, “Well now, 1 - 2 - 3; come on and rock with me,” from the last track, “Come On.” That song is an example of the album’s overall appeal, and that is FUN! The lyrics are not deep or socially challenging; they are as innocuous as “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and twice as catchy.
If, by some chance, your name is Rip Van Winkle, and you’ve failed to get this CD, go ahead and secure a copy. It is an album that will be referred to for years to come.
Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL