Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Album Review: Black Joe Lewis -Electric Slave

 Black Joe Lewis
Electric Slave
*** out of *****

The cover screams Hendrix from his photo shoot that ended up on some of the Smash Hits records, the music contained within also takes its cue being much more rock oriented here then Black Joe Lewis has been in the past. Where BJL's previous efforts were more soul oriented Electric Slave gets raw and aggressive. The act has also drops the "& The Honeybears" moniker from their name, if this shift signals a change or a one off it remains to be seen, but the backing players all appear to have remained the same.

The scuzzy blues riff of "Skulldiggin'" opens the effort with a heavy stomp and fuzzing six string while Lewis shouts his lyrics over the top of the fray. Lewis has never had the most powerful or sweetest of retro soul voices (JC Brooks and others come to mind) and on Electric Slave he takes a back seat from proper front man to let the power of the band swell.  

"Young Girls" is a nice combo tune that works with this style, let's call it roadhouse punk but Lewis then returns back to his bread and butter soul roots with "Come to My Party" that is highlighted by some cool bass lines. The electric blues gets play with a spotlight on the groups horn section during the trio "Dar Es Salaam", "My Blood Ain't Running Right", and "Guilty". The blaring horns and revved up six strings get the hips moving while the slow blues of "Vampire" cools things down.

The lyrics to "Golem" are eyebrow raising ("One hand on your shoulder, another in your wallet/Smile in your face, while he's stabbing you in your back") but the funk can't be denied and either can the stripped down production

More raw then say contemporary Gary Clark Jr., Black Joe Lewis has carved him and his band out an interesting slice of the blues/retro soul scene. As a front-man, BJL lacks a sense of charisma or charm that is pretty vital for this style of playing, especially with a voice that seems secondary to the music but things are more rock here so it matters less.

Punkish in attitude, professional in technique and retro in delivery Electric Slave has the feel of a leader and band finding their collective feet with this new direction.
I am interested as why Black Joe Lewis and crew changed their name for this one, but the disk feels like a shift in styles. While enjoyable I think there is definite room for growth, just seems to be something slightly off and I love this style of playing. I missed them live in NOLA a few years ago, so I am hoping to catch them to get a better feel for the group.

Support the band here, buy the album here and peep some samples below:

"Come To My Party"

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