James Brown has been reborn – Black Joe Lewis is quite possibly a music legend out of his time. It’s been a long 16 years from his days as a seafood delivery man and pawnshop employee to the now multi-album success he is today, and that journey hasn’t been easy. In March this year, Lewis and his band ‘The Honeybears’ hit back with their single ‘Five Dollars’ after a 2-year break since their last studio album, The Difference Between Me & You. They bring back with them their immense soul sound and Lewis’ phenomenal voice. It’s made us incredibly excited to hear what other music could be in the works.
Sometimes I find myself listening to a Spotify playlist sent to me, enjoying all the songs that come up one by one, and then a song comes on which just hits differently. A Soul classic which has escaped my radar? No, a song released only this year – Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears.
Their music layers Lewis’ evocative lyrics over fantastic guitar riffs and striking horns which are reminiscent of Charles Bradley’s Menahan Street Band. You wouldn’t be able to tell if these records were recorded today or decades ago, the inspiration of classic artists like James Brown and Howlin’ Wolf are so heavily embedded that the classic sound of old soul records is weaved throughout.
Joe Lewis first picked up a guitar whilst working in a pawn shop in Austin Texas in the early 2000s. After discovering classic blues records and teaching himself to play, he spent years performing at open mic nights, small venues and bars, never making much of a name for himself. It wasn’t until the release of his debut EP Black Joe Lewis and The Cold Breeze, that he had a hit with the truly incredible ‘Bitch, I love you,’ and thereafter, everyone seemed to know who Black Joe Lewis was.
In subsequent years, Lewis toured alongside the band Spoon, the drummer of which, Jim Eno, then produced Lewis’ debut album ‘Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!’ which quickly alerted the rest of the music industry to his presence.
This peak of success was shortlived however, things soon began to decline for Lewis. A combination of band and management conflicts resulted in a drop in album sales, the loss of festival bookings and a collapse in the band’s name and popularity.
It wasn’t long before Lewis found himself back where he started, having recently released their 2018 album The Difference Between Me & You, it was met with almost no attention, sales or interest.
Along with this, Lewis’s costly recent divorce, his newborn child and an outstanding debt of $50,000 in management fees, Lewis nearly saw an end for his music career. He debated giving up and finding a ‘real job’ in order to pay for all this and to take responsibility for his child.
But as so many of his musical inspirations have found, in hard times, music was the only light at the end of the tunnel and the only way forward.
Now under new management, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are making a powerful comeback with their smashing new single ‘Five Dollars.’ Bringing back with them their fantastic guitar and horn-driven sound to a track which has seemingly reignited their careers and caused a rush of discovery for their recent album which almost went unnoticed, giving it the attention it was denied at the time of its release. Once again, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears have got our attention, and this time I don’t expect they’ll let that slip away once more.
As soul and blues music once made its way across the Atlantic and ignited a fire across the world, Black Joe Lewis has been inspiring the second revolution of blues, soul and rock and roll.
This is great music, dancing music, and above all, music that makes you feel good, something the world desperately needs right now.
There isn’t a single song of theirs I can say I dislike. Listening to them is like jumping in a time machine and travelling back to the golden age of Funk and Soul, something I wasn’t around to experience but can now fully appreciate. Unlike those past music legends, Black Joe Lewis is still very much a living, breathing man who I’m excited to go and see live once I have the chance to. To all those Soul, Blues and Rock and Roll fans who think music isn’t what it used to be, take a listen to Black Joe Lewis and transport yourself.
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybear’s new single ‘Five Dollars’ is available to listen to now, and if the incredible story of his past few years hasn’t inspired you, the feeling in his music will.