Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Tell 'Em What Your Name Is!
US: 17 Mar 2009
UK: Available as import
Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!, the first full-length release from Austin’s Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, features 10 tracks so full of funk and sensual soul in such a short span of time it makes one’s head spin. Clocking in at just under 31 minutes, the album manages to maximize every incendiary second of sonic sexuality the band is putting out.
The detonator of an opening track, “Gunpowder” (also available on the recent Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears EP) is like a bullet to the brain of point-blank blues and hopped up, feel-good funk. James Brown would be proud. Scratch that, James Brown would be jealous!
“Sugarfoot” continues the aural assault with a sensational mover that has the Honeybears stealing sweetness from a Stax sound and channeling the ballsy brass of the Memphis Horns. “I’m Broke” also calls on that iconic southern soul style, as the piano is possessed by more than a little bit of Booker T.
But don’t get the idea Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears just copy the legendary R&B forbearers; it’s more than that. The band has its influences for sure, and it infuses its music with these influences, definitely, but this pertains to inspiration and interpretation, not in any way just simple imitation. Make no mistake, Lewis knows his history, but he also knows his moment, too, and it’s now. The Honeybears aren’t afraid to mine the past to make music for the future.
The band isn’t afraid to flavor its savory soul with a hefty helping of the hallmarks of garage-rock, as well as more than a pinch of humor. “Big Booty Woman” does both, as it calls to mind late ‘60s psychedelic riffs while extolling the virtues of being able to see your baby from around the block. “Boogie” borrows some Slim Harpo lyrics in places (but then, who hasn’t?) and puts them to what has to be the best-accelerated ass-shaker of the century so far. Switching it up next, “Master Sold My Baby”, a marshy mass of Delta-blues licks and mouth-full-of-molasses mumbling, could have come straight out of the 1930s Mississippi mud—except for the fact it’s set to a thoroughly modern militaristic beat.
“Get Yo Shit,”, another 60s style shouter, recalls “Mustang Sally,” but with one of the funniest lyrical stories a player ever told:
“C’mon baby let me back in the house,
You know I love you.
She said, “You don’t even buy me presents.”
I said, ‘Yeah I did, I bought you a box of chicken but I ate it on the way home.’
She said, ‘You don’t even know my name.’
I said, ‘Yeah, it’s Melissa,’
She said, ‘No dumbass, it’s Roxanne!’
Spell it out for me.
I was like, ‘Damn, man ... ‘“
“Humpin’”, a funky, organ-heavy almost entirely instrumental piece that, as the name implies, proves perfect for getting your groove on. “Bobby Booshay” scorches, causing James Brown and Otis Redding comparisons, not so much in sound—though that’s there, too—as in spirit. “Please” ends the set with what’s probably the most obvious ode to Brown, as well as nods to Jimi Hendrix and many others, but once again Lewis makes it unmistakably his with a raging wail over swells of organ, swirls of guitars and slashes of horns all backed by a brick wall beat. The effect proves equally as explosive as the opener.
Honestly, the whole album is a powder keg of powerful grooves. Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! takes all the raw flash and firepower of the energetic eight-piece ensemble that is Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears’ live show and distills it into 10 tracks of tightly packed dynamite. Get it, and then get moving, ‘cause this fuse is lit!
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