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Music Review: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Tell Me What Your Name Is!

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It’s no surprise that Austin’s Black Joe Lewis really, really thanks James Brown in the liner notes. The Godfather of Soul’s influence permeates the album, which over the course of its way-too-short, 30-minute runtime will not only have you “wanna get on the good foot” but the bad one as well as the Honeybears deliver so many sweet sounds on Tell Me What Your Name Is!

Opening with Lewis’ Chuck Berryesque guitar lick, Ian Varely’s organ leads the rhythm section while the horns, provided by Leo Gauna (trombone), Josh Levy (baritone saxophone), Gilbert Elorreaga (trumpet), who also play in Grupo Fantasma, harken back to Stax house band the Bar-Kay’s “Soul Finger” on the raucous opening track “Gunpowder.” Good luck sitting still.

“Sugarfoot” starts with a call-and-response answered by the horns. Bill Stevenson lays downs some funky bass lines on this one. The longest song, at just over four minutes, is “I’m Broke,” a wicked slow jam. Producer Jim Eno, from the band Spoon, provides percussion on this track about tough times. “Big Booty Woman” is warm and full, like the women this ode is dedicated to.

A better name could not have been selected for “Boogie,” which will certainly get you to do just that as it burrows straight into your soul at a rock ‘n’ roll pace. Taking a page from Otis Day and the Knights’ version of “Shout,” the song gets a little bit softer (now) in the middle before putting the pedal to the floor and going back into overdrive. On “Master Sold My Baby” the horns get a break as a lap steel joins the arrangement on this modern-day spiritual.

“Get Yo Shit” is a tale of dealing with your “crazy ass girl” although she doesn’t sound crazy after hearing how badly the narrator treats her. Fellas, as this song demonstrates, knowing your woman’s name is important. It comes to a funny end when the APD shows up looking for Joe and he has to split. Making clear the Bar-Kays’ influence is a cover of their instrumental “Humpin’.”

“Bobby Booshay” is a booty-shaking, rollickin’ tune about a mean dude and “a bad mutha fucker.” The volume slowly rises on “Please Pt. Two,” a song seemingly already in progress. It is a quarter of the way through before the levels are full when Joe’s intense scream rings out.

Although it could easily pass for an album from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, Tell Me What Your Name Is! will be on my “best of 2009” list. It’s all killer, no filler. It can be heard in its entirety at their MySpace page, and “Sugarfoot” is currently available for a free download at Amazon.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh Hathaway

    Nice work here, El Bicho. I’m always interested when music gets under a writer’s skin. It’s one thing to say an album is good and list the reasons why. It’s another thing to gush about how an album has impacted the very soul of the guts of your life. I think I’m going to have to check out the free MP3 just to see what it is you’re digging.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Thanks, Josh, but hell, use the MySpace link and check out the whole thing. I came close to offering a money-back guarantee, but I don’t make anything off the album.

  • http://confessionsofafanboy.com Josh Hathaway

    I’ve just used Etta James’ ‘Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions’ album as my warmup to it. I have religious objections to MySpace, but I’ll get over it if you’re that enthusiastic about it. You’ve got the evangelistic fervor of a fanboy, sir. Preach on!

  • http://themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    I’m realy digging the free songs. Gonna have to slap down some money for this soon.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Sounds like we need to hold a dance party soon