Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., Feb. 10, 2017
Black Joe Lewis and his sixpiece Honeybears continue crashing modern soul music head-on with blues and dirty punk rock on their fifth studio LP, and first since 2013's Electric Slave. Boasting a few R&B party rockers in the mold of past hits like "Booty City," Backlash celebrates the persuasive power of female gentalia on "PTP," while "Sexual Tension" hits with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Even so, the album's a darker affair than previous efforts, brimming with paranoia and regret. Lewis exorcises demons on the gritty "Shadow People," a sinister mix of 12-gauge punk and blues without a single Stax-styled horn line anywhere in sight. On "Global," the gravel-voiced shouter wanders a postapocalyptic world "eating cockroaches and using sand for salt," while depicting "a fire burning in the ghetto" over a Daptone groove on "Nature's Natural." At six minutes, LP closer "Maroon" finds the bandleader invoking runaway slaves as he simmers a slow blues into a blistering guitar solo. "I choose to live my life as a maroon ... And my past cuts me just like a knife." It's as unsettling as it is unpolished, but Backlash compels as much as anything this crew's put out.