Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears – Scandalous

I was struck by the rocking raw power of Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears the first time I heard the band on David Johansen’s XM-Sirius Mansion of Fun radio show. And I was even more excited when I saw Lewis and his Austin, Texas cohorts rip through a fast and loose set of guitar and horn-driven rhythm and blues originals opening for The New York Dolls.

The band’s explosively funky 2009 Lost Highway debut, Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!, instantly drew comparisons to the newfashioned wave of soul revivalists, including, of course, Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings. But Lewis and his Honeybears have an altogether more subversive sensibility, more in tune with the signifying girl group and garage gyrations of the Dolls and the grinding dirty blues of R.L. Burnside. Such early explicit Lewis rants as “Bitch I Love You” and “Cousin Randy” are charged with unhinged hip-hop swagger. And the song “Master Sold My Baby” recalls the heyday of the Ramones “KKK” pinhead irreverence.

Scandalous, the second Lewis & the Honeybears album for Lost Highway, hits on much of the same blues, soul and funk stuff. There’s the James Brown-inspired workout, “Livin’ In The Jungle,” the peeping and hiding Stax jam, “She’s So Scandalous,” the low-down ramble, “Messin,” and the raunchy boogie, “Mustang Ranch.”

This time around, though, it seems the giddy naughty factor has been turned down a couple of notches and the production is a tad less edgy. It is about time to get more commercial and make some money, right?

But if a cover of the Ivory Joe Hunter classic, “Since I Met You Baby,” comes off a little too reverent at first, some schmaltzy horns and sloppy guitars kick in to confirm that Black Joe is still letting his freak flag fly. And the pounding Mississippi juke junk of the final track, “Jesus Took My Hand,” conjures the scary gutsy glory of Junior Kimbrough.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
[Lost Highway]