Monday, April 4, 2011


Your next classic funk-rock throwback is here. On their new album "Scandalous," Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears display an earnest attempt at recreating the sound of 60s and 70s horn-powered, funk and blues based rock music. On cuts like, "Livin' In the Jungle," you can clearly hear the influence of funk greats Tower of Power and the King of Soul himself, Mr. James Brown, both at work. With fuzzy AM-Radio guitar, stabbing horns and fat, walking bass lines, these guys have certainly done their homework on how their influences achieved their bombastic and simply badass sound.

Like all great funk music, Black Joe is no subtle craftsman with his lyrical wit. On "Black Snake," all the ladies in the audience are warned of the "black snake comin up in your grass, girl, tryin' to get up under your skirt." But isn't that lack of subtlety the key to great funk music? Sexual innuendos and euphemisms for smoking pot? Yes, it is. Again, with "Booty City," we are taken on a journey, in fact, "the best trip I've ever had in my life;" an ode to a mythical town where bodacious behinds reign supreme. Complete with group chants and a sax solo begging you to come along for a wild visit, the track is by far the standout of the album.

Yet there is another element at work here. Black Joe and his team of Honeybears show they are no one-trick pony, with several blues-rock tracks that take you back to early Cream and Led Zeppelin, with chunky guitars and crisp drums. While the Black Keys showed that young, white men can still write and play the blues on their new album "Brothers," Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears show that the blues can, in a modern age, still be recorded in a simplistic fashion with little effects or flourishes. While the blues on "Brothers" featured heavy production, "Scandalous" presents the songs in their purest, raw, live form. The dub-blues of "She's So Scandalous" provides horn-fueled choruses, and verses full of spacey, reverb-soaked guitars. On "Mustang Ranch," the group echoes the storytelling banter and guttural howl of blues legend Ronnie Hawkins, feeling like a funkafied take on "Who Do You Love?".

The most critical element of funk and blues music is sincerity- in a stanky, swagged-out, ramblin' cowboy kind of way. Its not just about making soulful music, its about being cool enough to play your soulful music. Black Joe and every one of his Honeybear teammates got what it takes... mojo or whatever. Sure, it doesn't hurt to have an album full of damn-good songs too.

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