Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears : Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is

Jeff Terich

After hearing just one verse of Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears’ “Gunpowder,” from their debut EP released earlier this year, I was hooked. The Austin-based outfit somehow managed to encapsulate in one song all of the funky attitude of James Brown and the raw, rock `n’ roll of late ’60s Rolling Stones into one kickass package. On the EP’s other three songs, however, Lewis packed in some Southern soul balladry, talking blues and more muscular R&B to round out a pretty damn impressive package. Of course, that was merely a tease for the incredible album to come.

Tell `Em What Your Name Is, Black Joe Lewis’ full-length debut, is a sweaty, summer barbecue soundtrack, exploding with energy and packed with flavor. Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, Tell `Em has just the slightest bit of his band’s ultra-cool rock sound, but Lewis draws more heavily on a meaty Stax soul stew. Each song bursts with a hard-to-beat combination of big, brassy horns, fiery Hammond organ, distorted guitars and Lewis’ own manic wail. If that’s not a guaranteed combination for a drunken, booty shakin’ good time, I don’t know what is.

Two tracks from Lewis’ first EP—the incredible “Gunpowder” and “Master Sold My Baby”—made their way on to the album, and with good reason. As much as I love “Bitch I Love You,” those two are the definite standouts. Nonetheless, they’re in good company with the remaining eight tracks on Tell `Em What Your Name Is. “Sugarfoot” grooves along a walking bassline and some super funky clavinet, and “I’m Broke” jams on a fantastic piano hook while Lewis turns its title into a rallying cry. “Big Booty Woman” is a bit more psychedelic garage rock than funk or R&B, yet nonetheless fits in perfectly alongside its brethren, maintaining a deep, bluesy sound. “Boogie” rocks sufficiently hard, as does “Get Yo Shit.” And “Bobby Booshay” boasts some of the album’s most kickass guitar and organ riffs.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears bring to mind a lot of things simultaneously—classic ’60s garage rock, the golden age of Southern soul—but in their un-traditional combination of traditional sounds, they create something fresh, and somewhat rare in an increasingly digital age. Tell `Em What Your Name Is is a hell of a debut, and hard not to want to bust a move to, spontaneously. Put this album on at your next backyard `cue, and your guests may never want to leave.

Similar Albums:
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – Naturally
King Khan and the Shrines – What Is?!
James Brown – Sex Machine

Video: “Sugarfoot”

Download at Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - Tell 'Em What Your Name Is!

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