Tell ’Em What Your Name Is!
Put on “Gunpowder,” the lead track from Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears’ Tell ’Em What Your Name Is! (Lost Highway), and the easy, horn-driven groove of the seventies classic “Soul Finger” instantly comes to mind. Yet seconds later it sounds like you’re listening to Nuggets. So it goes with the band’s major-label debut, which fuses brassy, retro soul-funk with a loose, grinding garage-rock attitude. Producer Jim Eno wisely recorded most of the album live in the studio to preserve the band’s onstage intensity. Round Rock’s Lewis sings (actually, screams) the album’s first note as if it’s the last of the night. A riveting front man but not a particularly versatile vocalist, Lewis is both the band’s biggest attribute and its biggest limitation. Having found a range that cuts through the din, he doesn’t stray from it. He’s not about subtlety. Lacking the chops to kick slower material into the stratosphere, Lewis chooses to maintain a relentless pace. But as the songs unspool—the James Brown–like “Sugarfoot,” the bluesy “Master Sold My Baby,” the rocking “Big Booty Woman,” and the rave-up “Bobby Booshay”—you’re really not going to care.