Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears - Tell 'em What Your Name Is!

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Tell ‘em What Your Name Is!
Lost Highway

Ever thought that the only things missing from those classic James Brown records are terse blues guitar solos? Austin’s Black Joe Lewis apparently pondered this question intently, and the result is his first major label album Tell ‘em What Your Name Is! (Don’t ask me how a guy whose biggest local hit is called Bitch I Love You – not included here – managed to land on a subsidiary of Universal.) That’s admittedly a facile description, and believe me, it ain’t meant as a dismissal. Essentially the testosterone-laden counterpart to the great Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Lewis is a soul shouter in the classic mode and a fine six-stringer, and his young partners in crime are as tight and funky a backup group as any R&B revivalist could want. Between the high steppin’ dance-offs (Sugarfoot, Boogie), the slow burning mash notes (Please Pt. Two, Big Booty Woman) and the sanity-challenged rants (Master Sold My Baby, the hilarious Get Yo Shit), the band has all the bases covered in glittery vests and tight striped pants. Spoon’s Jim Eno produced with an absolute minimum of fuss – it sounds like he just punched the record button and let the guys get on with it. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears worship Chess Records as much as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

- Michael Toland
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