What makes great soul music? For fans of the legendary Detroit-based Motown, it might be the pristine production value and star power. Those passionate about horns and southern charm, look no further than Memphis’ very own Stax Records. And, of course, the songwriting talents of Gamble & Huff and lush funk instrumentals helped put Philly soul on the musical map. All soul music is great soul music. Soul music, in its essence, is designed to fill in a hole in the listener; to make one complete. It’s a very intimate experience. Oftentimes, that intimacy can turn animalistic.
Representing Austin and carrying on the rich tradition of Texas funk, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears skillfully craft their own brand of fierce and sexually-charged soul music. “Sugarfoot” off their 2009 debut album Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! is a testament to the energy of Texas funk amongst the contemporary music scene. With an arrangement of dirty, greasy horns, “Sugarfoot” is pure animal lust. Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma’am. No breakfast in the morning.
Lewis counts down the intro as the track opens and the band comes in on the mark without holding any punches. Playing hard and intense backing Lewis’ screaming vocals, the band performs on point without missing a beat. The call and response between Lewis and the Honeybears is gratifying and playful. Controlled and disciplined, the Honeybears know what the listener wants and they’re going to give it to you. You can feel the sweat rolling off the players as they recorded the song.
I’ve seen Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears perform twice. Both times in Chicago. As great as the band is in the studio, they shine even brighter live. Their energy is astonishing and the experience will leave you exhausted. If you’re new to independent soul music, or if you want to broaden your funk horizon, check out this band.