Black Joe Lewis (who has either dropped “& the Honeybears” from their moniker or replaced the backing band, I haven’t been able to confirm this yet) will release their new album, Electric Slave, on August 27th and are offering a free, legal mp3 to celebrate…
Lewis has said of the album’s title and theme: “Electric Slave is what people are today with their faces buried in their iPhones and the only way to hold a conversation is through text. The next step is to plug it in to your damned head. Nothing is up front anymore and people are de socializing.“
Whether due to that societal frustration, simple artistic experimentation, or the influence of the album’s producer Stuart Sikes (who previously worked with The White Stripes), the band’s punked up garage rock side has completely overtaken their bluesy, funky, retro soul in their new single, “Skulldiggin’.”
That high energy, raucous noise is cool and fun for one song and I happen to agree with Lewis’ sentiment, but I selfishly hope they didn’t abandon their signature sound for the entire album. That delicious duality of modern garage rock and vintage soul is what has always set Black Joe Lewis apart. Anyway, let’s enjoy this track for now and we shall see how the rest of the albums sounds in August. You can stream or download the free, legal mp3 (in exchange for an email address) below…
This year’s top album list pretty much assembled itself throughout the year. The top 4 in particular are albums I expect to continue to listening to over and over for years to come. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, download mp3s…
“…combine catchy electro-pop with airy dream-pop….What sets The Good Natured’s songs apart is the occasional splash of exotic strings or thunderous, syncopated beats. I’m enjoying this album immensely.“
“…churns the all-female vocal ensemble’s signature Gothic choir sound with even more exotic instrumentation, faster tempos and fiercer wails….brimming with dark drama, intoxicating rhythms and haunting choral harmonies“
“…From the opening blast of harmonica through the finale, The Decemberists have woven layers of delicate instrumentation and poetic lyrics into even the most buoyant and infectious song on this album.“
“…truly a delight…airy pop-folk songs…”Appalachian Hills” is the album’s biggest stunner. The haunting folk ballad explores the beautiful landscape and horrific racism in the Shenandoah valley during and after the Civil War.“
“…marries the electro-pop of his recent releases with the eccentric troubadour style of his early albums, then takes things a step beyond with classical strings, big brass and a newfound lyrical optimism.“
“…Lead singer Genevieve Schatz’ voice is distinctively strong and pretty, and the band’s pop-rock songs are far more catchy and lyrically substantial than anything on the radio…one of those albums I like more with each listen.“
“…The poor kid must be sick of the comparisons, but what else can I say here? This little gem of an album sounds like Edith Piaf singing modern, slightly quirky, jazz and pop tunes. I adore it…There really are no weak tracks on the album, the intricacies and charm of the arrangments are a perfect match for Zaz’ superb and distinctive voice.“
“…grand in scope and beautifully complex, yet one of the most irresistibly accessible collections I’ve ever heard. This magnificent new song cycle finds Sarah taking pop, folk, rock and classical to places they’ve never been before.“
“…more of a American rock musical sound than the seminal Celtic punk band’s previous efforts…a lyrically brilliant and sonically solid effort inspired by the U.S. economic collapse – particularly its harsh effect on Detroit’s factory workers.“
“…gives these brilliant musicians some new opportunities to show off their substantial skills…”You Been Lyin’” is the best, most exciting collaboration any album ever had. The quaking duet with “Dallas gospel funk band” The Relatives sounds like The Staples Singers and George Clinton jamming with The Darkness.“
“…previously unreleased material by the late, great Eva Cassidy…composed entirely of acoustic versions of Eva’s best known recordings. Accompanied only by the soft strum of her guitar, Eva’s extraordinary voice is beautifully displayed in this exquisite collection.“
“…One of the more impressive releases of 2011 so far, Night of the Hunters was an ambitious undertaking for Tori Amos and one that, despite its weaknesses, can be called a success. It’s also a definite step in the right direction for the songstress and has won my loyalty back after a decade of disillusionment.“
“…Sin Palabras has all of the strengths of Night Of Hunters, yet none of the weaknesses…gorgeous instrumental version illuminates all of the intricacies and nuances of the arrangements. The brilliance of Tori’s piano playing, as well as that of her accompanying orchestra musicians, is put on full display.“
“…Heather’s unusually gorgeous voice has always been the driving force in her songs, but her intricate layering of high energy pop-rock instrumentation with haunting folk melodies continues to put her music into a category of its own.“
“…a brassed up brand of eerie indie-rock, melodic pop, delicate folk and the lightest hint of Zydeco…From her first wail in the mesmeric, churning, chill-producing opener, “Leila and the Orange Moon,” I knew I would love this album.“
“…a delightful nod to vintage Western swing, honky tonk and classic Nashville country…the whole album is a toe tappin’, hip shakin’ wonder. I expect it to be on my best of the year list come December.“
“…I don’t recall ever having been so profoundly moved by an album. The lyrics read like classic poetry, full of beautiful, nature-evoking imagery and immense sorrow…Sonya’s broken heart is deeply embedded in the marrow of this spectacular album, as her personal loss intertwines with metaphors depicting the loss of natural habitat and sanctuary for animals in the wild. Such personal and universal themes coupled with lush, intricate arrangements must surely destine It is so to become a folk classic.“
How I adore a band who avoids the dreaded sophomore slump! Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are back with a successful follow-up to the loud, bawdy blend of retro soul and garage rock of Tell ‘Em What Your Names Is. Set for release by Lost Highway Records on March 15th, Scandalous gives these brilliant musicians some new opportunities to show off their substantial skills.
“Livin’ In the Jungle” opens the album with the band’s signature “garage soul” sound, but “I’m Gonna Leave You” digs down into a classic blues style. This seeming homage to blues greats like Robert Johnson is even more apparent later in the bare bones “Messin.”
“Booty City” is as funky, fun and danceable as you’d expect. It’s “Black Snake,” however, that really kicks up the bass, the brass and the tempo. It’s more of everything, with some astounding guitar work toward the end.
The hilarious “Mustang Ranch” throws a little Western tap into the soul-rock mix, but this ain’t no country song. Joe’s wry talking blues narration drives this bizarre and comedic tale of the band’s visit to the titular Nevada brothel.
The standout track “You Been Lyin'” is the best, most exciting collaboration any album ever had. The quaking duet with “Dallas gospel funk band” The Relatives sounds like The Staples Singers and George Clinton jamming with The Darkness.
“Ballad of Jimmy Tanks” rumbles with retro brass and funk guitar. Joe’s garbled vocals sound more like Reverend Peyton and The Honeybears make almost as much noise as the Rev’s Big Damn Band. Despite their vastly different genres of choice, I’d love to hear the two high energy bands play together.
Don’t let the title fool you, “Jesus Took My Hand” is no hymn. The finale is much more Jimi Hendrix than gospel.
Overall, the songs on Scandalous aren’t quite as catchy and addictive as those on their debut, but the artistic quality of the songwriting and instrumentation may be even better this time around.
I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below.
It’s that time of year again! Following are my Top 15 Albums of 2009. As usual, I tried to balance the order of the list between what I personally perceive as artistic merit (quality of songwriting, vocals, and instrumentation) and basic listenability (how many times I played the album throughout the year). I’ve included some new commentary and brief quotes from the original reviews. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and in some cases download mp3s…
“…all dusty roads and sunsets buoyed by rock guitar and drum crashes that eventually give way to sprawling piano and mournful strings” – As his previous release did on 2008’s list, Joshua’s album pushed its way onto this list at the last minute. I suppose it’s the subtlety of his music that prevents it from being more prominent in my memory, but it wasn’t until I listened to the album again that I remembered its excellence.
“…noirish rock sound with lyrics that alternate between whiskey-splashed cabaret and blood-soaked Gothic poetry” – I haven’t had much time to get to know this new release, but it’s already a favorite. I hope more people pay attention to Rykarda’s unique talent.
“… elegant, Medieval chamber-folk instrumentals and haunting traditional vocal pieces ” – This was a surprise. My enjoyment of instrumental music has grown tremendously this year, but I usually place a higher value on vocals. But this lovely album has been one that I’ve returned to and enjoyed many times over the year.
“…Maura O’Connell’s unparalleled vocal power is beautifully displayed in her impressive new album” – This one was sabotaged by the amount of emotion Maura’s voice rips out of me. It’s a gorgeous album from beginning to end, I just have to be in a particular mood to listen to it.
“…filled to the brim with the kind of warped traditional Eastern European music that made me love Luminescent Orchestrii in the first place” – I really expected this to be #1 when I first reviewed it and the stand out tracks are absolutely stunning, but overall I don’t listen to it nearly as much as the albums below.
“…dark, catchy synth-rock with a slight retro Goth feel…think “Blue Monday” by New Order” – This ominously infectious little album worked its way up the list throughout the year. The title track in particular is one that echoes in my head long after the music has stopped.
“…The Decemberists transformed themselves into the hard rock progeny of Led Zeppelin for portions of the album” – This magnificent concept album may be #1 when it comes to artistic merit, but it lacks the overall listenability of others on the list. Still, it’s one of the more impressive projects of the year.
“…finally puts his pipes to good use over soaring rock arrangements” – I loved this album when I first reviewed it and put it on heavy rotation last winter, but hadn’t listened to it much since then. Playing it again made me wonder why I neglected it for so long. If albums have personalities, it has the strongest of the year.
“…whether humming in such hushed tones or belting to the rafters as in latter tracks, there’s an elegance to each note the sextet sings” – This was another release that faded in my memory until I dug it out again and rediscovered how wonderful it is. Now I love it even more than I did when I reviewed it. The duet with Sara Bareilles on “Gravity” is very moving, and their a cappella cover of “White Winter Hymnal” is one of the loveliest recordings I’ve ever heard.
“…Integrating classical and opera music into their theatrical electro-rock sound, Muse have created one of the most exciting song cycles I’ve ever heard” – The brilliance and complexity of Muse’s album still surprises me every time I listen to it. Not only do I love this album, but it’s the one that everyone I know immediately asks about when I play it.
“…marries foreboding metal guitar and militant drums to pretty piano and angelic backing vocals, reminding us of Gaba’s fondness for Iron Maiden” – The Top 4 albums on this list are pretty much interchangeable. This is probably the most unusual and creative album on my list. I’ve known Gaba for almost a decade now, and I was happy to see her popularity in Poland skyrocket this year. I think she’s going to be a huge international star someday.
“…a breathtaking blend of militant beats and orchestral strings” – I loved this album from the beginning, but it also turned out to be a grower as repeated listens revealed even more layers to its beauty. It is definitely the most beautiful release of the year, but there are two albums I’ve listened to more…
“…Ominous instrumentation is barely restrained as Stolte’s sultry croon initially floats in” – If the order of this list was based solely on the number of times I’ve listened to an album this year, Great Northern would’ve been #1 by a landslide since I’ve played the album nearly every day since March. It may not be the innovative recording on this list, but it is certainly the most addictive. Only one man could keep it from the top spot…
“…I can’t imagine a more perfect score for my favorite novel of all time” – The quote says it all. This album had an edge since it was based on my favorite book (Cat’s Cradle) and featured my favorite author (Vonnegut), but Soldier’s innovative compositions helped push it to the top of the list. If my imagination had a soundtrack, this would be it.
Though there were other artists booked for last night’s Mountain Stage concert, I went for one man: Black Joe Lewis. Well, one man and his seven bandmates.
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are an eight-piece “garage-soul” ensemble from Austin, Texas. As I said when I reviewed their album Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is, their music is “the kind of guttural, robust, bluesy soul of James Brown and Screaming Jay Hawkins, rough edged with a very modern sense of humor and garage instrumentation.”
Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is will certainly be near if not on the top of my year end list, but not even such a brilliant recording can compare to what it was like seeing these guys perform live.
Actress turned singer and Judy Collins protégé Amy Speace opened the show. She’s a singer-songwriter of the Joan Baez or Dar Williams variety. I would say of the other non-Joe performers, I enjoyed her set the most.
The Proclaimers followed with heavily accented harmonies. The Scottish twins are best known for what they endearingly admitted was their only hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” The Benny & Joon theme closed their segment of the show. Their performance – which bordered on novelty – was tolerable for a short set, but would grate on my nerves for a full concert.
Contemporary classical group Cordis was a pleasant surprise. Featuring West Virginia native and electric cimbalom player Rick Grimes, the band mixes lovely chamber melodies and upbeat rock instrumentals.
And then they took the stage, all eight of ‘em: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears. They immediately started blaring out songs from Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is, the highlights being “Sugarfoot” and “Bobby Booshay.” While the production of their studio album seems to emphasis the soul side of the band’s style more than the garage, it was the noisy rock of Joe’s guitar that was most apparent in the live show. The entire band was loud, energetic, and awesome. Young and old audience members alike were tappin’ their feet and bobbin’ their heads along with the beat.
Former Men at Work frontman Colin Hay was granted the final slot of the night. Hay was very personable between songs and his simple acoustic tunes sound much better live than on his studio albums, but such a low key set would’ve fit better at the beginning of the concert. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears unquestionably stole the show.
Sadly, Joe himself elected not to join in the group finale. But the horn section of The Honeybears returned to the stage with the other artists to cover The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”