Blues, soul outfit John Nemeth & The Blue Dreamers to co-headline at Briggs
With goosebump inducing vocal ability and blues harp in hand, John Nemeth has become one of the most talked about frontmen in the blues and soul scenes.
The singer, songwriter and harmonicist, who originally hails from Boise, Idaho, but now resides in Memphis, Tenn., will headline the Briggs Farm Blues Festival Friday night in Nescopeck with his band The Blue Dreamers.
Nemeth and company altered their touring schedule to perform at Briggs after slated headliner Devon Allman stepped out of the lineup for personal reasons.
“My heart goes out to Devon Allman who had to cancel after the passing of his father Gregg,” Nemeth said. “I wish his family the best in this trying time.”
Nemeth & The Blue Dreamers approach the festival on the heels of their critically acclaimed May release “Feelin’ Freaky.”
“‘Feelin’ Freaky’ is a record that dug deeper into the reaches of my bag, which now lives in Memphis and is older and much wiser,” Nemeth said.
Nemeth’s bag began in Boise, where he sang at home and at his Catholic school where Sister Coletta trained children to sing melody and harmony for church services.
“This was not a Southern Baptist church, but we did sing songs that sounded more like they were written by Oscar Hammerstein and Cat Stevens rather than 1000 year old monks,” Nemeth said. “It actually taught me more about the feel of American roots music.”
Nemeth said he heard “real deal” blues when he was 14 and his friend Tom brought him music by Junior Wells, Robert Johnson and the three Kings of blues (B.B., Albert and Freddie) among others.
“Right away I knew the blues had a hand in what I liked most about American music,” Nemeth said.
Nemeth said his first gig was as the singer for a band in which Tom played guitar and that he was persuaded to make his own music by “Northwest blues great Paul deLay in 1999.”
The eight albums that preceded “Feelin’ Freaky” have established Nemeth as a powerhouse in blues, soul and R&B.
He made his first impacts with 2002’s “Jack of Harps” and 2004’s “Come and Get It,” and received a positive wave a criticism for 2007’s “Magic Touch.”
By the time he debuted “Name the Day!” in 2010, he was breaking the top 10 in the Billboard Blues Album Charts, and 2014’s “Memphis Grease” earned him a Blues Music Award and took the prize for Soul Blues Album.
His music draws on elements from various genres from the smooth R&B of “Sooner or Later” to the delightfully funky “I’m Funkin’ Out” to the traditional blues of Nemeth’s arrangement of Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues.”
“When I write a song, I start with a story idea and then I search for a title hook,” Nemeth said. “I play around with that hook until I have a melody. Then I build a story and arrangement around it. I let my influence flow naturally in this development.”
With “Feelin’ Freaky,” Nemeth tests the boundaries of genre again, working hip-hop and rock influences into his compositions.
“I work hard to make my living in the music business along with supporting a band (The Blue Dreamers), my wife Jaki and children Ava, 6, and Otis, 2,” Nemeth said. “There is a lot of stress on my mind, body and soul as well as the people who support me. I know this record reflects that.”
The record was produced by Grammy-winner Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi All-Stars.
“He is a super positive voice in the studio, and he helped us rebuild a few songs to make them better,” Nemeth said of Dickinson.
For The Blue Dreamers, Nemeth has nothing but praise.
He called Danny Banks “one of the most talented drummers in the world” and said bassist and guitarist Matthew Wilson “has a great knowledge of blues and it’s roots.”
Johnny Rhodes, who Nemeth said has a “phenomenal groove” played guitar on “Feelin Freaky” but is no longer in the band.
“I am bringing guitarist Joe Restivo from the Bo-Keys to Briggs Farm,” Nemeth said. “Joe is a ringer, one of the best in Memphis.”
Nemeth, who’ll lead the group, has developed his voice — capable of being both pure and soulfully gritty — over 24 years as a professional and 15,000 hours of stage time, and he uses it as an instrument as much as he does his Honer chromatic harmonica.
“The harp is a simple, powerful instrument, and it can make your voice act in the same manner if you let it. Having that instrument so close to my ears has reinforced my singing in both pitch and creativity.”
The pitch, creativity and all the soul that comes with Nemeth & The Blues Dreamers will liven the four-day blues celebration in Nescopeck.
“I have performed in Pennsylvania over the last few years. I have made so many great friends at these concerts,” Nemeth said. “These folks keep telling me how much fun they have out on the Farm, and I need to experience that fun for myself.
“I’m glad I can do it. Pennsylvania is a great state for music.”
For full scheduling and ticket information for the Briggs Farm Blues Festival, visit briggsfarm.com.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: John Nemeth & The Blue Dreamers
Where: Briggs Farm, 88 Old Berwick Highway, Nescopeck
When: 9:45 p.m. Friday on the Main Stage
For more information, visit briggsfarm.com.