Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears | Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is (Lost Highway)

cd_black-joe-lewis.jpgHaving an album with a hardworking, instantly classic feel dropped directly into your lap is an exciting development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Joe Lewis and company have done the world the favor of giving birth to a shouty, raucous, unadulterated homage to the rawest, dirtiest ’60s R&B. Having an album with a hardworking, instantly classic feel dropped directly into your lap is an exciting development. But all of the James Brown hollerin’ on planet Earth doesn’t necessarily indicate possession by the spirits of the masters. The songs, while always nothing short of intensely delivered, occasionally border on parody; listening to tunes like "Sugarfoot," it’s equally easy to imagine sincere passion or picture the Blues Brothers via Eddie Murphy in his hot tub. Look no further than tracks with eyebrow-raising names like "Humpin’" and "Big Booty Woman." But enough analysis; this is music that begs on bended knee not to be thought about too deeply. It’s libido-driven rhythm and blues that aims directly for a sweat-drenched dancefloor.

Once overly thoughtful minds have been subdued and dancing shoes donned, it’s easy to get on board with the disc’s many pleasures. "I’m Broke" delivers the goods with crisp, emphatic trumpet bursts, organ licks that turn on a dime, and some of Lewis’s most focused, caricature-free yelping. "Boogie" is a pure rave-up, stuffed absolutely full of wailing vocals, frenetic guitar and religious awakening-type fervor. Despite its incongruous, Liam Lynch’s "United States of Whatever"-style verses, "Get Yo Shit" impels you to get the hell up off your ass and move. It’s remarkably easy to visualize Lewis writhing around onstage, belting out album closer "Please Pt. Two." Oh, and for what it’s worth, the aforementioned "Humpin’" is actually a Billy Preston-worthy instrumental workout that serves as a welcome break from Lewis’s occasionally tiresome intensity. Surprisingly, a couple of the tunes, such as "Master Sold My Baby," inspire neither "just seen the face of God" praise nor vehement dislike. Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is only bogs down during these unfocused moments of jammy blues-rock stock; thankfully, they’re few and far between.

This is a record that, more than anything else, inhabits a similar space as the Strokes’ debut. Clearly not in sound, but in the way that This Is It un-revolutionized indie rock in the early 2000s by doing nothing more than delivering a consistently well-written and impeccably made record in an existing, established style. Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is won’t change lives, but it’s an album with loads of ants in its pants. So most certainly don’t believe the hype, but if you only have a half hour, and all you wanna do is dance, this could just be your record of the year. B+ | Mike Rengel

RIYL: Dancin’ your ass off to Stax 45s; James Brown; a musical representation of a night out at the Hi-Hat, the grimy dive club in Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys

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