There are so many elements to the sound of Austin-based Black Joe Lewis and The Honey Bears that make up what they describe as “garage soul,” but the main ingredient is pure unadulterated fun. Every track on the band’s second release Scandalous sounds exactly like a band having a great time doing what they love to do.
Black Joe Lewis formed the Honeybears with Zach Ernst, who rides shotgun on guitar, and helped create a muscular road-seasoned eight piece band that sounds like James Brown singing in front of a funky punk band from the Deep South. “Living In The Jungle,” hits you with full frontal assault from the Honey Bear horns alongside some heavy guitar all propelled by a crack rhythm section that gives way to Lewis shouting “welcome to the jungle, everybody get up and find the groove.”
The groove rumbles on to “Booty City,” a classic boogaloo that sounds like it came straight out of Motown, then settles into a mixture of roadhouse boogie, blues and soul. Lewis weaves his vocals into the lead guitar lines on the smooth “I’m Gonna Leave You,” and the terse” Ballad of Jimmy Tanks,” in the style of classic bluesmen like Lighting Hopkins and Elmore James.
The Dallas gospel funk band, The Relatives, make a guest appearance on the raucous “You’ve Been Lyin,” turning it into a Sly and the Family Stone style house party. Another standout track, “Mustang Ranch,” is the true story of a road trip from Salt Lake City to San Francisco with a late night stop at the infamous brothel, delivered by Lewis with fierce comedic timing over a classic highway boogie sounding every bit as hilarious as Eddie Murphy in his prime.
As if to show they are more than a four on the floor funk band The Honey Bears hit the twelve eight swing of the Ivory Joe Hunter classic “Since I met you Baby,” with authentic bravado. With the acoustic stomp “Messin,” Lewis shows that his roots are not far from the delta and Robert Johnson, who also taught himself how to play on a second hand guitar.
Scandalous showcases a band on the move, and having a riot getting there.