Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears’ newest album, Electric Slave, blends funk with psychedelia and punk into a wicked witch’s brew. I saw them at Nashville’s Mercy Lounge back in September and they flattened the place.
They flattened it with tracks like “Young Girls,” the second song on the new record. It’s a barnburner that reveals Lewis’ love of MC5. Drummer Eduardo Torres and bass player Bill Stevenson both go wild on it, and you’ll love the results.
Don’t worry, funk lovers. Mr. Lewis and the Honeybears don’t leave funk in their punk rock dust. “Dar Es Salaam” has those sweet Honeybear Horns (Jason Frey on tenor sax, Joseph Woullard on baritone sax, and Derek Phelps on trumpet) you crave. In the meantime, Stevenson pours a bass lick on it thicker than hot tar on a summer highway reconstruction project.
On “My Blood Ain’t Runnin’ Right,” Mr. Lewis may be complaining about some sort of ailment, but it doesn’t show in his guitar work. He tears up the whole track. On “Guilty,” the Honeybear Horns are indeed guilty as charged for committing assault against their instruments. They work them so much that I half-expected the Nashville cops to be waiting for them offstage when they got done with the show at the Mercy Lounge.
It’s back to the funk on “Come to My Party” (Would you expect anything less with a title like that?). One listen will convince you that Mr. Lewis’ Arbor Day party, if he threw one, would be groovier than any Las Vegas bachelor party extravaganza you can imagine. Will your party have a horn section that funky? No, it won’t.
“Vampire” deserves to be on every Halloween-themed music compilation from now through the end of time. The Honeybear Horns are both menacing and sexy at the same time (just like a vampire), Torres lays down a burlesque beat, Stevenson’s bass creeps around like gothic fog, and Lewis sings like the world’s hippest horror host.
“Make Dat Money,” the angriest cut on the record, has Lewis and his band pounding throughout it with blaring horns, crashing symbols, thudding bass, and punchy guitar. “The Hipster” treads on rockabilly ground and slams the subculture that, for all its vanity, can’t see how silly it is.
“Golem” doesn’t seem to be about the wonderful silent film from 1920 (although Lewis seems so cool that it wouldn’t surprise me if it is), but it does seem to be about a single-minded guy who ain’t got time to mess around and might kill you if you look at him wrong – much like the way Lewis and the Honeybears don’t mess around on this record and kill everything you hear on FM radio nowadays.
The album ends with “Mammas Queen.” It’s a sizzling 3:45 send-off with everything that makes this band good: slick guitar, Jay Hawkins-influenced vocals, hot horns, funky bass, and solid drums.
I met them after their show at the Mercy Lounge. I spoke with Bill Stevenson about how I was going to review this record for Outlaw Magazine. He got excited and said, “Hell yeah, man, we’re outlaw as fuck!”
Yes. Yes, they are.
~ Nik Havert
Nik Havert is a writer, DJ at WSND 88.9FM University of Notre Dame, harmonica player, martial arts instructor, comic book publisher, crime fighter,music lover, cult movie enthusiast, and modern day Renaissance man. He hopes to shark cage dive sometime in the next few years and enjoys travel and good natural root beer. Visit his web site at http://www.picklepress.net.