By Austen Krantz
The last time Baton Rouge saw Black Joe Lewis, he was bringing down the walls of a packed Chelsea’s Café with rocking blues tunes and hollering that graced the top of his band’s sound.
Those energized cries of his often draw comparisons to James Brown and Wilson Pickett with several of Lewis’ tunes descending into funky, dance floor territory. However, the Austin native found more influences than funk in the musically rich city.
After picking up a guitar at his pawn shop job, Lewis first cut his musical teeth playing blues and garage rock with other local bands. His rocking and singing style also drew more references to blues man, Howlin’ Wolf. He eventually developed a grittier almost-punk feel in some of his recordings, most notably in his latest, more aggressive record, Electric Slave. With such a powerful voice, Lewis is no slouch on guitar, as many of his riffs tie the groove together in in that album.
Electric Slave is a slight break from Lewis’ past work. His previous album, Scandalous, was more rooted in soul and funk. It featured a bigger horn section, and soulful croons from Lewis over a cleaner rhythm guitar. With Electric Slave, Lewis dives into more abrasive rock. He shed his previous moniker, “Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears,” and dawned a grim-faced cowboy getup for the album’s photos to better give off the in-your-face tone of the record. The album’s first track, “Skulldiggin” opens up with intense, fuzzy distortion over Lewis’ powerful chords and screaming vocals and lends a preview to Lewis growing options for live performance.
With Four Studio albums and two EPs under his belt, Lewis has toured and recorded extensively to say the least. Lewis worked with Fellow Austinite and Spoon drummer Jim Eno to produce his band’s debut album, Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! Blues Fest will be a new name on a long list of festivals Lewis and his band have appeared at, including Bonnaroo, Coachella, Wakarusa, and an initial breakout performance at South By Southwest in his hometown of Austin, TX.
Black Joe Lewis will take the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation stage at 6:30 p.m. to open up for headliner Dr. John. With Blues Fest as the first stop on Lewis’ latest tour and an hour and fifteen minutes to play, the blues rocker will no doubt tee up the Blues Fest crowd with lively energy to saddle up for voodoo swamp master Dr. John.