Friday, August 30, 2013

Black Joe Lewis Belts Electric Slave

Black Joe Lewis
When you listen to My Blood Ain't Runnin' Right off the new release from Black Joe Lewis, pay attention to the lyrics as well as the soulful croon that defines so much of Electric Slave. The song has significant meaning to Lewis. He wrote it about his dad.

According to Lewis, his dad wasn't dealt the greatest cards. And like so many people who aren't, he tended to keep messing his life up. Lewis said it was painful to watch such a strong man begin to fall.

Truth be told, he could have followed a similar path. But unlike his dad, Lewis bought a guitar at a pawn shop where he had worked instead. From there, he started to play it every day until one of his friends suggested he learn the blues.

It wasn't long before he immersed himself in the local blues-garage scene at night while driving a fish van during the day to make ends meet. There was no way he could have known it at the time, but Black Joe Lewis was just getting started. Electric Slave is a blistering fourth album.

Electric Slave is blues rock, with a few soulful funk highlights. 

There is a physical weight to this album, with only horns to soften an otherwise raw and dirty sound. So expect the bulk of Electric Slave to hammer blue-infused garage rock into something reminiscent of 60s protopunk, making it the hardest album to date. It's different, but still a solid direction for progression.

The lone exception is Come To My Party, which was the first track released by the band in advance of the album. The track is still a powerhouse, but it differs in packing in a soulful funk that is as much a signature as anything that helped Lewis break out of Austin four years ago.

Interestingly enough, funk isn't the inspiration for this song as much a disco. Lewis says anything that makes people want to dance is good with him. Come To My Party clearly has the ability to do that.

And yet, it doesn't necessarily capture the essence of this album. While it suggests celebratory funk with a vintage familiarity, the only other place you will hear funk with so much prominence is Dar es Salaam. Even then, Dar es Salaam is not a party song. There is significantly more aggression, urgency, and relevance to it. And if you only download a few, it belongs on the must-have track short list.

Then again, the short list runs long on Electric Slave. Skulldiggin is heavy enough to graze alongside some metal bands. Young Girls is a surprising outburst that bring together rockability and punk. The Hipster is punchy blues rock number with a swirling sax that invites anyone listening to stomp along.

Black Joe Lewis
That is the point. Part of the commentary that accompanies this album is how some music enthusiasts miss out on how physical music can be, far away from small screens and headphones. It's one of the reasons Lewis never buys CDs anymore. He prefers vinyl, which not only warms up the music but also adds another instrument to experience.

On Electric Slave, Black Joe Lewis provides enough diversity to test his theory out. In listening to the album from start to finish, Electric Slave feels like an odyssey of old forms brought back to life. The result is an album that revives and immortalizes something special from one of the emergent blues rockers commanding attention today.

With his natural vocal grit and fearlessness to perform chainsaw riffs alongside poignant and timeless struggles like those featured in Vampire and Golem, Electric Slave will one day be a collection that someone dusts off and calls a remarkable find. The passion and purpose here captures where we are today by helping us remember what we gave up to get here.

Electric Slave By Black Joe Lewis Rifles Up 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Liquid Scale. 

For anyone who knew the band as Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, the name change is simple enough to explain. The band originally came up with the Honeybears moniker because someone had brought in a Honeybear bottle into the studio. They added it as a joke for one album and it stuck.

You can find Electric Slave at Amazon or download the album from iTunes. Barnes & Noble is also carrying the limited edition vinyl edition. Black Joe Lewis is currently on tour with a growing schedule that crisscrosses the county. For a complete tour listing, visit them on Facebook.
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