Black Joe Lewis
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Black Joe Lewis

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"Hot New Band: Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears"

For the past eight hours, Black Joe Lewis has been driving a van around Austin, Texas, delivering fish for $9 an hour -- and he could really use a beer. Seafood delivery is better than most of the crap jobs he's had, beginning with a stint at the pawnshop where he picked up his first guitar. "If I didn't have this band," Lewis says, "I'd probably be in jail."

As he surveys the scene at local dive Hole in the Wall, Lewis, 27, seems more reserved than might be expected of the performer who got his start here, hootin' and hollerin' his way through playfully profane dirty-blues romps like "Bitch, I Love You" and "Big Booty Woman." Lewis figures his onstage antics -- leaping off drum risers David Lee Roth style or wailing on his knees like Jimi Hendrix -- were the only reasons clubs asked him back. "I sucked so bad," he says. "I'm a fan of raw music -- just plug your shit in, turn it up, and play."

But his sound resonated with University of Texas student Zach Ernst, who booked Lewis to open a campus show for Little Richard in 2007. Lewis' touring band was on the road, playing without him, so Ernst put together a seven-piece group -- with himself on guitar -- that Lewis dubbed the Honeybears. Though it was meant to be a one-time deal, the lineup stayed intact.

They had only been playing a few months when Spoon frontman Britt Daniel caught one of their sets and asked them to join his band's 2007 West Coast tour. Though Lewis considered it an odd pairing, he wasn't about to say no. "We'd go out with the Jonas Brothers if we could," quips Ernst, 23. The bill proved quite fruitful: Spoon drummer Jim Eno ended up producing the Honeybears' new album, Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! (Lost Highway), a rowdy collection of garage-soul stingers that Ernst says are about "meeting girls and getting laid, or being broke and having shitty jobs."

With that, Lewis grins. "I just want to keep it real," he says. "I don't want to sit back when I'm 40, working at fucking Sonic, and be like, 'Damn, I should've paid attention in class.' " - Spin Magazine


"ACL Live Shots"

There are thin lines between inspiration and imitation, often blurred by good intentions but more often by style over substance. Give it up for Austin's Black Joe Lewis, whose love of the Godfather of Soul James Brown's classic show band led to a smokin' Saturday set. Lewis' midafternoon slot without a lot of competition allowed for an enormous crowd that swelled to near rock-star status for the eight musicians. Decked out in black and white with the horn section in snappy vests, the band heralded Lewis' arrival onstage with punching, wailing, JB rhythms. Lewis – tall, slim, and Marvin Gaye-handsome – dominated the stage, a soul shouter reaching deep into the past for killer riffs and tossing them out like a pro. By the time the set drew to a close, his show-stopping signature tune "Bitch (I Love You)" held the audience in his thrall. - The Austin Chronicle


"Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears"

One look at this Austin-based blues band, who played Lollapalooza in Chicago a couple weeks back, and you know they're cool. Black Joe Lewis, a throwback to soul shouters like James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding, hangs front and center, surrounded by a whip-ass combo and three-piece horn section. Strutting and swaying, the band breaks into "Gunpowder" and energy pours off the stage in waves, like when Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings bring the funk. And when Lewis trots out his most requested song, "Bitch, I Love You" ("...but I don't know why"), crowds go wild — it's one of the best things to come along since Chick Willis put the blue in blues with the risqué "Stoop Down, Baby." From Lewis's Albert Collins licks to his respect for Lightnin' Hopkins's country-blues to the rhythm section's deep Chess Records feel, Lewis and the Honey Bears hold close to blues traditions without limiting themselves within them. Raw, loud, and as intense as a garage band, Lewis and company only have one gear: high. - Houston Press


"Eric Uhlir loves Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears"

Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears' frontman Joe Lewis drove a fish delivery truck — the kind of job any self-respecting soul singer is supposed to have when they're paying their dues. These days, Lewis is touring nationally in support of acts such as Spoon and Okkervil River and landed a deal with Lost Highway Records. Fusing elements of classic soul with the raw swagger of punk and scorching Delta blues guitar licks, Lewis and his band, the Honey Bears are a riotous explosion of fun. - Venus Zine


"Ten Bands Set to Break Out at 2009's SXSW Festival"


Listed in Esquire’s “Ten Bands Set to Break Out at 2009's SXSW Festival”...

Joe Lewis's first show was opening for Little Richard, so it's no surprise that his six-piece band play throwbacks (like the impossibly honest "Bitch, I Love You") punctuated by horn blasts, deeply rooted in blues and soul-rock. Any irony has been scored out by heartfelt grit.
- Esquire


"Black Joe Lewis & The Honebears : SXSW 2008"

Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears were one of the really fun, live surprises of SXSW 2008 for me. I had heard mention of this band when they were out opening for Spoon last year, but had yet to hear the recorded work or see a live show. The Club DeVille set was full of big, bold soulful grooves that had everyone dancing. With his soul revival sound, James Brown-esque yells, a fresh face and a big smile, Black Joe Lewis was very easy to love.
- My Old Kentucky Blog


"Meanwhile, Black Joe Lewis Is Out to Rock The Vote."

Every once in a while, a quaint little band will get a phone call from a frantic local booker looking to fill a short-notice role in a TV show or a celebrity event. We’ve seen local bands dive into slots on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and pick up gigs for star-laden film festival parties. But lately, nothing is more coveted than the opening slot for Barack Obama’s campaign rallies. Chicago’s extravaganza featured the venerable Wilco, and Bright Eyes has been a rally frequenter in the Northwest.

While the Dallas event disappointed in the live music front, it’s not a surprise that tomorrow’s rally in the Live Music Capital of the World will indeed showcase a musical act. At around 7 p.m. in front of the Texas Capitol, Austin-based Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears will play a set that I’m pretty sure will get the crowd rolling.

Black Joe Lewis may not yet be well known in these parts, but considering their considerable buzz, they should be soon. Spoon’s Britt Daniel counts them among his favorite bands, Drew Barrymore was spotted at a recent sell-out show at the Continental Club in Austin, and by God—if you can think of a better campaign song than “Bitch, I Love You”, I want to hear about it. The Dallas connection? Bassist Bill Stevenson hails from Farmer’s Branch and the whole outfit will be coming to town on April 5th to open for Okkervil River at the Granada.

In the meantime, if you didn’t make it in to the Obama rally here yesterday, hit the road early tomorrow, camp out at the Capitol and enjoy the Black Joe Lewis bonus. Their update on raw soul, blues and Motown sounds is instantly refreshing, different, and, well...fun. Sounds like a frantic booker’s coup to me. --Jennifer Elaine Davis

- Dallas Observer


"Cover of 2008 SxSW music issue"


Joe Lewis ladles out all grit, no gravy. He spits lyrics in short bursts of aggression like bricks at glass windows. While his father's favorite singer was R&B god Donny Hathaway, the closest Lewis has come to a sweet soul ballad is the profanity-laced "Bitch, I Love You." The 26-year-old Austin native was less enamored of shucking oysters in the local food service industry.

"I was tired of eating shit every night," barks Lewis. "Zach was like, 'I can throw together a band if you want to try it one more time.'"

That would be Zach Ernst, 21, guitarist for Black Joe Lewis' new eightpiece lineup, the Honey Bears. Borrowing some Dap-Kings retro R&B, Ernst rounded up the Bears after booking Lewis to open Little Richard's performance on the UT campus. Around the same time, Lewis' self-titled debut – a gritty collection of abrasive blues and soul – spun on constant repeat in Ernst's CD deck. A year later, the group has cut an eponymous EP of funky originals and relatively obscure covers by the likes of Howlin' Wolf and Don Covay and has entered preliminary talks with labels like Fat Possum.

"There's no pretense about what Joe does," Ernst says. "He plays that really loud, aggressive style of guitar, and he's a really forceful singer. It reminds me of Hound Dog Taylor and Wilson Pickett. To think that someone was doing that so well and so off the radar in Austin was just totally beyond me."

Thankfully, Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears are no longer casting pearls before swine. Lewis credits recent buzz to the indie rock crowd. "It's made a world of difference, because those are the people that go out to shows," he says. At the group's first show at the Beauty Bar, not exactly the traditional blues circuit, Lewis turned the head of Britt Daniel, an encounter that led to the Honey Bears opening Spoon's West Coast tour last summer. The two bands now share the same management, and Spoon drummer and producer Jim Eno is helping the young soul-shouter cook up a batch of new tracks, including the horn-driven R&B explosion "Gunpowder," which features blazing horns from Grupo Fantasma.

"My dream is to be on the level of James Brown," Lewis says. "I want to be the black Elvis."

BY THOMAS FAWCETT
SXSW showcase: Wednesday, March 12, 8pm @ Emo's Main
- Austin Chronicle


Discography

2 LP's released (self released) 2006/2007
10" EP released Jan 27th, 2009
3rd LP (Produced by Jim Eno) March 17th, 2009

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Bio

Black Joe Lewis has already opened for both Little Richard and Barrack Obama, but the 26-year-old Austin soul shouter is still has ambition to spare. “My dream is to be on the level of James Brown,” Lewis told the Austin Chronicle in advance of his SXSW appearance in March. “I want to be the black Elvis.” Based on the evidence of his self-titled solo debut and a pair of blistering self released EPs — and especially his high-octane live show he’s well on his way. Black Joe & the Honeybears first nationwide tour was with Spoon, fall of 07 (they were hand picked by Brit Daniel after he saw Joe perform in dive bar in Austin, TX). 2008 for BJL has been filled with sold out regional gigs, coveted slots on both Lollapalooza & The Austin City Limits Festival, a summer tour with What Made Milwaukee Famous, not to mention they’ll be supporting Okkervil River this fall. They’ve just recorded their “first real record”, powerfully produced at Public Hi-Fi by Jim Eno (Spoon) - the record is set for release in early 2009. Make no mistake, the buzz on this band is real; Lewis has the charisma, chops and raw mojo to make it happen. And with his latest lineup, the eight-piece, horn-powered R&B ensemble the Honeybears, he’s got lots of wicked tight, funky muscle to back him up.