CD Review: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears — Scandalous; Playing The Loft, March 22 and Black Cat, March 24
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
Lost Highway Records
By Eileen Tilson
Picture it: Georgia, early 1950s, backwater blues shack, where as soon as you walk in you start sweating. But then you find yourself swaying, and before you know it you are right in the mix dancing with all the rest of the grooviest people you have ever seen. This is a party that you never want to leave. Within the first minute of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears’ perfectly-fitting second album Scandalous you can’t help but to feel like you just stole some of the best vinyl from your grandmother’s attic.
After years of struggle to get heard, things started moving fast for Lewis after putting together the earliest incarnation of Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, naming themselves after a crusted container of honey they found on the floor of their “disgusting” rehearsal room. They went out with Spoon after Britt Daniel caught a set, and their subsequent Jim Eno-produced (Spoon drummer) EP caught the ear of Lost Highway, who signed them to a record deal. Eno then helmed their 2009 debut album for the label, Tell ’Em What Your Name Is!, much of it cut live off the floor.
Produced once again by Eno, this Austin musician has definitely proven that life on the road has matured him into a bonafide soul machine. Like the aftermath of a cheap hotel room, Scandalous, is littered with age-old issues: hard times and one-night stands, lying and cheating, redemption and revenge. Gritty, raunchy, and oh so real, the album is the perfect playlist for the best night out.
On “I’m Gonna Leave You,” the band sends a jolt of electricity through a Mississippi hill country blues template. “It’s about leavin’ a girl, just gettin’ out while you can, before the shit gets too thick,” insightfully states frontman Joe Lewis.
On “Messin” Lewis could honestly be mistaken for the latest and greatest artist on King Records. Channeling Robert Johnson, this is low, dirty south, acoustic guitar pickin’. Infused with old style blues, you half expect Lewis to be sitting on some porch in south Mississippi with Howlin’ Wolf and Magic Sam.
The album leaves you feeling like you are walking out of that seedy shack covered in sweat, dirt, perfume, and whiskey. The best kind of night.
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears play The Loft in Atlanta, Ga. on March 22…
… and Black cat in Washington, D.C. on March 24.