Scandalous, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

Posted on April 21, 2011 by

Artist: Black Joe Lewis & The HoneybearsTitle: Scandalous
Label: Lost Highway 15215
Released: March 15th, 2011

In a recent interview, Black Joe Lewis pointed out, “People call us a soul band but we’re more of a rock band. “The Honeybears lead guitarist, Zach Ernst further confirmed that by stating, “We always joke that we would do that kind of music, but we’re not good enough: our guitars are too loud, we’re too primitive on our instruments, and Joe is more of a shouter and a talking-blues guy than a smooth soul singer.”

Their realization of their collective self, exhibit the bands focus on their abilities and their respect and knowledge for music. That doesn’t mean that they do not incorporate the essence of soul into their blues charged rock though.

Scandalous opens with the track, “Livin’ In The Jungle,” with the Honeybear horns blasting like they were playing on the Stones Sticky Fingers sessions. The rhythm guitar chanks an early funk sound, but all and all, this is horn driven rock that isn’t square. “Black Snake” is reminiscent of “Resurrection Shuffle” by Ashton, Gardner & Dyke, but it would be a disservice to the Joe & the band to compare them to those brass rockers of the early 70s – like Chase or early Chicago – because the Honeybears can swing.

“Booty City’s” horn riff is lifted from Edwin Star’s “25 Miles.” Joe shouts through it with the meter of a James Brown delivery, but the guitar solo during the break is more likely to be found in a Funkadelic number.

Their bombastic cover of Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met You Baby” truly shows the bands distance from the real goods but also their relative proximity. They know they can’t do it justice by reading it note for note, but yet feel the need to share their love for the song, and this is the only way they can purvey that honestly.

So even with the references to Funkadelic, James Brown and Ivory Joe Hunter, I’d still claim them to be a rock band. When purchasing the vinyl edition of Scandalous, not only do you get a fine 180 gram pressing on clear vinyl, but you also get a bonus platter, with six cover versions, You get Robert Johnson’s classic, “Stop Breakin’ Down,” Freddie King’s “Funny Bone,” Hound Dog Taylor’s “Let’s Get Funky,” Junior Wells’ “Snatch It Back & Hold It,” plus a nine minute take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Asked For Water.” But then smack dab in the middle of these bonus cover versions, there’s The Dead Boys’ “What Love Is.” How about a side of punk rock with your slab of blues?

Joe & The ‘Bears resurrected the psychedelic gospel group, the Relatives to play on the track “You Must Be Lyin’.” It is a perfect fit since both bands bend the genres. Zach Ernst attacks the opening like Jimmy Page and the songs floods into a jam sounding like Led Zeppelin meets Sly & The Family Stone.

“Mustang Ranch” Is a talking blues romp in the vein of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” about the bands’ visit to the famous house of ill-repute to get their “ham glazed.” Yes, like all good rock and blues records, they sometimes venture into the “R” rated territory. But you can always get redemption and the Honeybears do by closing the album with “Jesus Took My Hand.” It’s probably not a song you’re going to hear and any of the Lutheran churches anytime soon, but you can hear its roots echoing through the Mississippi Hill Country.

Even with all these references to soul, funk and blues, I’d still agree with Joe that they are still more of a rock band than a soul band.

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One Response to “Scandalous, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears”

  1. Mix your White Stripes with your Sharon Jones and bam, a Black Joe drink, pretty good drinkin too!

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