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John Nemeth is a genuinely talented US bluesman, a guy with a sharp, clear voice, a searing harp stylist with a fine songwriting pedigree and a solid grasp of blues basics. Ever popular on the US and international European festival circuit, he has here teamed up with a full-on Memphis big-band sound and backing.

By my reckoning this marks Nemeth’s second release this year, following on from his Feelin’ Freaky offering, a funky, soul-blues release that was full of his typical, hi-energy performance and delivery. With this latest release, he appears to be moving in a new direction, with less noticeable harp work and a vocal delivery that, at times, seems close to old, US-balladeer crooning. Oddly enough, though initially this comes as a surprise, Nemeth manages to pull it off with a deft touch and soulful sense of exuberant funky fun, probably because of the support band’s class and grounding in the Memphis traditions.

Nemeth exploits the full-on band sound, with its horn-driven echoes and bounces, to full extent here and shows another, more experimental side to his character. As a frequent blues award nominee, he is well aware of the needs and expectations of blues fans but is evidently prepared to stick his neck out a bit with this one, taking listeners on a delightful journey through soul and blues that isn’t simple or anchored in the usual twelve-bar format. This is an album that will surprise some but should also cement his growing reputation as a guy with real blues vision.

—Iain Patience

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