Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears | Scandalous

Lost Highway (2011)
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  March 9, 2011
4.0 4.0 Stars


The soul revival has been going on long enough now that maybe it's a not a bad idea to stop calling it a revival at all. Sooner or later it was bound to happen - folks growing weary of all that bogus over-emotive, cloyingly melismatic, polished "contemporary" slop masquerading as R&B these days and hankering instead for something with bones and gristle. It's easy to slap a retro label on Sharon Jones, Raphael Saadiq, Amy Winehouse, James Hunter, Eli "Paperboy" Reed, and the rest, but it's the cheap way out - these artists aren't reviving, they're reminding. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears also know the real shit, and you can stay up all night drawing lines if you like: Famous Flames rhythm-guitar line here, Redding/Pickett vocal yelp and airtight Mar-Keys horn chart there. But though they may start at the same point, the Austin octet, to whom the label "garage soul" seems to have stuck, don't end up where Jones, Saadiq, etc. do. Scandalous - the group's sophomore release, produced, like their 2009 debut, Tell 'Em What Your Name Is!, by Spoon drummer Jim Eno - is more grease, grit, and grime than smooth, satin, and shine. The guitars scream, the drums pummel, the horns wail, and Lewis, like the most possessed among the Stax/Hi/Malaco/Chess crowd, is one demon of a singer. Scandalous, though a natural progression, takes some surprising turns that attest to a tightened-up band still figuring out just how much dy-no-mite they're capable of exploding. "Mustang Ranch" is a rippin', ribald road tale that Lewis doesn't so much sing as speed-jive his way through; "Jesus Took My Hand" is the kind of nasty-ass, hard-blues raunch that's more likely to get you tossed out of church than called up to testify. This ain't no throwback, unless funky good times have a shelf life.

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