Music Blogs - Blogged Blog Directory Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, June 29, 2009

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears: "Tell 'Em What Your Name Is"

I had the priviledge to see Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears on tour with Mates of State in the Spring of 2008, before anyone outside of Austin, TX really had any idea who this "big band" was. The show was energetic and entertaining, but after about 20 minutes, I felt myself becoming disinterested with the music. Songs started to run into one another, sounding far too similar. The constant barage of brass and sax began to sound more calculated than it should have. Simply put; I got bored. In the front row of a loud, energetic performance; I got bored. When I got my hands on the band's debut album, my sincere hope was that this was a one time thing; that it was no fault of the band, but just a consequence of an off day on my part.

The album begins with what I feel is its strongest song, "Gunpowder." With the band fully cranked up to 11, Lewis' vocals are howled out of the speakers in an exciting, near-unintelligible manner. Everything from the drums to the trumpet just seem to click, and it works! Boy, does it work! "Sugarfoot" tones things down a bit, but for the most part maintains the lead-off's unfathomable energy and spirit!

Where things go slightly arry is on the song "I'm Broke," in which Lewis proudly exclaims "I'm broke/ everybody knows." It's somewhat humorous, but entirely uncatchy and lacking in the soul of its two predecessors. The album would be fine if it could recover immediately from this disappointment, but it fails to do so. Tracks 4 - 6 are entirely forgettable, and though I get the aim of "Master Sold My Baby," its execution is ultimately flawed.

Things pick back up with "Get Yo Shit," a song that is pure entertainment. Joe tells the story of how he comes home to a "crazy" girl, how they have an argument, and how he ultimately leaves the situation. The best line has to be when his girl claims that he never buys her presents. He responds with, "I bought you a box of chicken but I ate it on the way home." Hilarious! "Humpin'," a catchy and worthwhile instrumental, and "Bobby Booshay" keep the momentum moving all the way to the final track, "Please Pt. 2." It's not the greatest song on the album, but it's definitely worth listening to.

If the Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears set out to disprove my original "these songs all sound the same" assessment, they more or less succeeded. However, the diversity of the album is also its downfall, as tracks like "Master Sold My Baby" and "Big Booty Woman" don't seem to serve any tangible purpose other than to mix things up a bit. The band is at their best when they are loudly careening out of control, keeping the people moving. There are times on the album where they seem to lose sight of that. Despite this, Tell 'Em What Your Name Is remains an enjoyable introduction to a band heavily influenced by legendary artists like Otis Redding and James Brown. If you find yourself in the mood for some old school funk and soul, you could definitely do worse.

Key Tracks:
1. "Gunpowder"
2. "Sugarfoot"
3. "Get Yo Shit"
4. "Humpin'"
5. "Bobby Booshay"

6 out of 10 Stars

No comments: