Black Joe Lewis and the Relatives
One of the great things about my job is that I get to go to SXSW every year. The drag part is that I only get to go to the Interactive week, not the Music week (the part where the attendees start looking less like grown-up, pot-bellied Eddie Munsters complete with chunky eyeglasses and more like Iggy Pop). Still, there’s a bit of overlap between festival phases, and every now and then you hit a Lucky Strike. Was finishing up a plate of street tacos when I heard from a nerd that the Twitter party was happening across the street at the Parish. Why not?
Flashed the badge, shambled upstairs, helped myself to a free whiskey (the very best kind), and got hit by this wall of pawn shop blues that knocked my socks off. I’d never heard of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, and thus assumed that my flux capacitor had misfired, landing me sometime before 1967 when Otis Redding still walked the earth. Took about 30 seconds before my body started bouncing involuntarily to this deep soul groove, which soon segued into a more James Brown-style funk.
Wait… he can play guitar too? Like, deep guitar? Holy crap, there’s Leadbelly in here! And Jimi too. “What is this band?,” I yelled to the person standing next to me. “The Relatives!” Went to check out the merch. Ah, I had misheard – it was The Honeybears. Later found out the merch was all wrong – it was The Relatives after all. Turns out Black Joe Lewis plays with both bands. Who cares? Lewis is a force to be reckoned with.
Don’t let the self-consciously 60s camp visual style of the video throw you – this stuff is as sincere as it gets. Stuart Derdeyn for National Post on Lewis:
He’s like the best moments of a classic Texas six-string slinger and a razor-sharp New Orleans funk n’ roll review in one. As ever here, his band is crazy tight and puts amperage into even the most tired and true blues riffs. Plus, he’s a really fine singer. This is blues for people that really want gritty R&B rather than Chicago I-V-IV boogie.
The night ended way too soon – I had arrived late and only caught half the show. Left the joint buzzing, thirsty for more “garage soul” … more of that throw-down funky blues, more of that back-yard Texas summer under Chinese paper lanterns, surrounded by shimmying glitter lame’ dresses and the pervasive aroma of ubiquitous, very slow barbecues. Yeah, there’s some retro camp there, but it’s also the real deal, and I could soak up this flavor any night of the week.