Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!

Lost Highway Records

By Georgetown Fats
November 2009

There is something real funky going on in Austin, Texas. In a city that erected a statue of the late-great Stevie Ray Vaughan, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are coming out with sounds reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells and James Brown, with a punk music energy. Voted as one of the “Ten Bands Set to Break Out at 2009's SxSW Festival” by Esquire, it is safe to say that it is only a matter of time before they garner some well-deserved rotation on corporate radio.

“Gunpowder”, the opening track to Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!, kicks off with a Chuck Berry-esque guitar riff before drums and organ pound out Memphis backbeat. Lewis’ howls and the blaring horns (assisted by Grupo Fantasma’s “Jewmex horns”) then enter with a power that would make J.B. proud. At a tidy two minutes and ten seconds, it is an irresistibly danceable track.

“Sugarfoot,” one of the songs released as a single by Lost Highway Records, is another up-tempo danceable funk track. Lewis’ free-time jive talk makes a perfect intro and Zach Ernst’s rhythm guitar work illustrates the power of creating space in a song. By complimenting with a minimal guitar line, Ernst reinforces the groove rather than playing a self-flagellating line that would only create a wall of sound.

All ten tracks are scorching funky romps, but my personal favorite is a track with a title that may challenge Boston Blues Society editorial policies. “Get Yo Shit” is a hysterical ode to the challenges of Lewis’ love life. While the story line could have also been inspired by any Maury Povich episode, Lewis‘ jive-ass rap and powerful vocals provide more than just a kernel of ethos to the story.

In this age of studio wizardry, it is not often that a disc is recorded live. Kudos to producer Jim Eno for bucking the trend of recording individual instruments and mixing and mastering later. By dropping mics and recording live, Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! retains a powerful sound often lost through studio pasteurization.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears dub their sound as “Garage Soul.” Call it whatever you want, just do yourself a favor and pick up several copies of this disc as soon as possible.

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