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Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears: Scandalous

Austin-based retro-R&B act Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears broke beyond regional favorite status with the 2009 album Tell ’Em What Your Name Is!, a set of energetic, horn-stoked songs drawing on the traditions of James Brown, Howlin’ Wolf, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. The band’s follow-up, Scandalous, doesn’t vary the formula one drop: It’s all chicken-scratch guitar and deep, funky horns, over which Lewis rants and grunts like a mush-mouthed street crazy. This is a party record, wholly unconcerned with painstakingly recreating the past (à la Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings) or pushing the genre into the future (à la Cee Lo or Janelle Monáe). And though Scandalous isn’t the happy surprise that Tell ’Em was, neither is it any kind of letdown. There’s a fruitful conversation to be had about whether it’s fair to soul and blues traditions to mine them strictly for their fun elements, but honestly, it’s hard to hear the jumped-up, swampy “Black Snake,” the ecstatic spoken-word tall tale “Mustang Ranch,” or the playfully tempo-switching “Livin’ In The Jungle” and not be in a better mood.


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