There’s a band from Austin, TX generating a little bit of excitement in the blues world. With a mix of blues, funk and retro R&B, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears are hard to label, but their unique sound and raw energy are contagious and might be a needed youth punch for the blues genre.
They draw their inspiration from Howlin’ Wolf and James Brown, and indeed, Black Joe has a lot of Brown’s hard-working power and soulful emotion. There’s a lot of humor in their lyrics, credited to Zach Ernst and Black Joe. My favorites are some of their story telling songs like Get Yo’ Shit and Mustang Ranch (see below). Their eight piece horn section plays with a brilliant smoothness and intensity and Black Joe is no slouch on the guitar.
The Honeybears have released two albums so far, Tell ’em What Your Name Is! and Scandalous. Scandalous has couple of their bluesier songs, Messin’ and a cover of Robert Johnson’s Stop Breakin’ Down, and their signature song Livin’ in the Jungle. I’ve listened to these so many times I’m starting to get the lyrics down. They’re very busy on the tour circuit, playing recently at Sasquatch and the Waterfront Blues Festival and various other music festivals across the US. Try to catch them if they hit your town, you’ll be glad you did.
Here’s a great animated version of their Mustang Ranch that’s making the rounds. Basically, it’s a story of a trip to Vegas to get their “hams glazed.”