Concert preview: Black Joe Lewis sidesteps labels on 'Electric Slave'
"You never know when the next bulls-'s gonna pop up in your life."
That's Joe Lewis' assessment of the past year or so, when hard times in his band, formerly known as Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, led to a delay in producing a new album. What the band ended up making, when all was said and done, was an original record with an entirely new sound, but one that can be directly traced back to its origins as a funk and soul group.
"Some of the guys had their own ideas about what we should be doing, so when we went in to record, it was just always kind of a battle between two groups," the Austin, Texas, guitarist told The Tribune about his previous two studio albums. "With this one, there just wasn't any of that, so we just kind of free flowed."
Now known simply as Black Joe Lewis, the band recently released "Electric Slave," an album driven more by slinky, distorted blues licks and Lewis' memorable, almost screaming, voice than by the upbeat funk riffs and horn-driven choruses of previous LPs. The soul is still there, and Lewis calls this the group's "truest sounding record."
The disparity with the previous sound, compared most often to James Brown and other midcentury soul acts, hasn't gone unnoticed, and album sales aren't quite where they were before, he said. But Lewis is unconcerned.
"What does that mean? People kind of download stuff more now."
As for constantly being compared to artists of the past, he again brushes off any strict classifications.
"I really don't ever compare myself to anybody. I think that's something for other people to draw their conclusions to."
There's also a rough edge to "Electric Slave," especially present on tracks like album-opener "Skulldiggin" and "Dar Es Salaam." Lewis attributes that edge to recent troubles. He wouldn't elaborate on what those problems were or how exactly they were resolved, simply saying that "it was kind of a rough year, so a lot of the songs are a little bit angrier."
Recording the album was helpful, though.
"It was a little therapeutic I guess. Like any writer, you kind of write about what's going on in your life."
Black Joe Lewis will play Urban Lounge on Tuesday, Nov. 26, and one thing he said hasn't changed is an energetic live show.
"That's one thing you can never take away from us we always put on a good show, if you ask me."
Black Joe Lewis with guests Radkey and Think No Think
When • Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 8 p.m.
Where • Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $13, plus $3.50 service fee; $15 day of, plus fee. Available at 24tix.