This second effort from Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears has been my musical find of the year so far. Formed in 2007 in Austin , Texas , the band released their debut album ‘Tell ‘em What Your Name Is’ in 2009 and this subsequent follow up is a masterclass in Funk, Soul, Rock, and Blues.
Clocking in at just over half and hour it is short, sharp, and utterly brilliant. First and foremost, this band is funky as fuck! The band has an old school approach with great rocking guitars, energetic and funky rhythm section, completed with a full on horn section. The opening 3 tracks whizz by in a whirlwind of fast-paced funky soul that knock you off your feet with their energy and enthusiasm. “Right On Everybody, Won’t You Take Me To Booty City !” chant the band on the exceptional “ Booty City ” that sounds like the greatest track Sly And The Family Stone never recorded. It is a track that just makes you want to dance like a lunatic on the closest thing resembling a dancefloor.
The band proves that they are more than just another funk band, with the ability to do blues-rock akin to the The Black Keys with aplomb. “I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Jesus Took My Hand” are the most obvious examples of this. They capture the essence and authenticity of the blues, backed up superbly by the bands horn section, who are outstanding throughout the entire album.
“Livin’ In The Jungle” channels the spirit of James Brown showing a band in thrall to their obvious influences, but they perform their songs so well, with such raw energy and joyfulness, I found myself grinning like an idiot throughout the entire first listen.
Joe Lewis’ vocal delivery swings from soulful, to dirty blues holler, to rock n roll with ease. “Since I Met You Babe” is a sunny homage to 60s Stax, Atlantic, and Motown as Lewis come on like guitar wielding Percy Sledge, whilst on the acoustic blues stomp of “Messin’” he pulls off his best Muddy Waters impression. Album closer “You’ve Been Lyin’” marries classic rock guitar riffing with soul reminiscent of Rare Earth and Funkadelic.
Scandalous is an album that you can guarantee will provoke a reaction if played at a riotous party. Its Funky-Soul is infectious, its Blues-Rock authentic, and when they marry all four elements together like they do on “Mustang Ranch” it is jaw-dropping and world-conquering! Each and every song is absolutely killer!
The current retro-soul revival has produced some great music in the last year or two. Aloe Blacc, Raphael Saddiq, and John Legend’s collaboration with The Roots to name a few, but this album is the pick of a very strong bunch. An album, and band, that are truly worth celebrating!