I Ain’t Fooling
Friday night at Newport Music Hall Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears took the stage as gunslingers prepared for a fight. Shooting from the hip and well armed, the audience fell quickly and hard but reveled in the all-out shootout of garage-soul, blues and Texas-swing inspired music of the night.
After a well-delivered set from locals Main Street Gospel, the crowd was ready for a show and Joe Lewis played a furious set full of driving guitar, searing vocals and brass; the overall result was a sound greater than the sum of its parts.
Constant touring has tightened this group into a lean, mean booty-shaking machine as evidenced when new favorites such as “Booty City” incited sing-along, foot stomping crowd participation. Proving that some New Orleans voodoo has made its way to Texas, Lewis summoned the spirit of Little Walter wailing on the harmonica during “Black Snake”, both songs off the new album “Scandalous”.
Other ghosts were in the house last night like Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. Gatemouth, a Texas native known for combining and changing styles, was likely smiling proudly at the Austin-based group who manage, as he did, to blend R&B and blues then deliver with soul. Joe Lewis adds his own combination of punk and funk to the mix. Add Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears to the list of musical acts that the city of Austin has graciously delivered to the world.
Ever the showman Joe Lewis switches easily between guitar and harmonica and back again, even pulling off Hendrix-inspired “Look Ma, I’m playing with my teeth!” segments. The set list included songs from both the freshman album “Tell’Em What Your Name Is” and “Scandalous” delivered in succession and with little or no introduction, but with unyielding passion.
Closing the set with “Sugarfoot” Joe Lewis sent the audience into a frenzy playing with driving fury, it was clearly not the end of the show, but Joe reluctantly strolled off stage. He and the band returned a few moments later and the crowd exploded when the opening chords of “Bitch, I Love You” (from their debut EP) rang out. Not your typical encore indeed, the band eventually finished with a bluesy, and bawdy cover of “Louie, Louie”.
With only two full-length albums and a four-song EP in their catalog Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears have amassed a dedicated and loyal following, with a sound and show deserving of such acclaim.
Written by Meredith Underhill