Black Joe Lewis, the elusive, effusive frontman of, well, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, boasts only one studio album to his credit. And already, the myth-making has commenced -- because, really, how could such an otherworldly blend of punk-fueled raw soul come from an ordinary human?
Lewis picked up the guitar late, when he was already well into his twenties. Legend has it he was working at a pawn shop in his hometown of Austin, Texas, and bored one day when he finally decided to pick up the instrument. Eventually, he hit the town's open-mike circuits in a series of semi-disastrous performances. "It was fucking horrible, because I was basically learning to play onstage," Lewis says. "It was pretty bad, but club owners let me keep coming back."
He picked up some semi-famous friends from the Austin scene along the way, and formed a band with a Sunday-night gig, but eventually got discouraged. So, legend again has it that he walked away from music, and was shucking oysters for a restaurant when pal and guitarist Zach Ernst dragged him back to the fold. Thus was born Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, whose debut studio album, Tell Em What Your Name Is, was released recently on the Nashville imprint Lost Highway Records.
It's a slab of proper Memphis-style soul and rock, but without the sometimes-precious, overly slick stylings employed by other latter-day soul revivalists. "People try to peg us with the Dap Kings and stuff, but I don't think we're anything like that," says Lewis. "We're kind of like a punk rock band with horns, or a blues band."
Check it out for yourself with a free download of the band's song "Sugarfoot," which you can download for free at Amazon by following the link below. And check out the maximum rock and soul live on Wednesday at the Culture Room, where Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears will open for the New York Dolls. And check Crossfade tomorrow for the full Q&A with Lewis.
MP3: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - "Sugarfoot"
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. With the New York Dolls. Wednesday, June 10. Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale. Doors open at 8 p.m., tickets cost $24.99. 954-564-1074; cultureroom.net