The man has been known to play the guitar with his face; gnawing at those strings with his mouth as much as with his fingers. With James Brown flavor and ’70s-rock riffs on a blues backbone, Black Joe Lewis howls as deeply and frequently as that guitar does. And come Friday, Dec. 6, his cat-calling lures us to House of Blues.
The Austin-based artist hit the festival scene hard in 2009 with his band, the Honeybears, to promote that year’s Tell ’Em What Your Name Is!, a scratchy, ragged, horn-infused blast of confidence that put the group on indie-chaser radars. Two years later, Scandalous brought gritty, fantastically suggestive and candid tracks like “Mustang Ranch,” on which Lewis recounts in traditional talk-telling musicality a garbled tale of trying to get his “ham glazed” for $20. And if you think “Black Snake” is about a slithering, legless reptile, you’re only partially right.
The aptly-titled third album, Electric Slave -- released this past August -- provides a more varied, techier sound than Black Joe Lewis’ previous records while maintaining his signature growling. The dance anthems alone are persuasive enough to entice any number of still-standers to groove to his guttural notes. He’s even got some classic rockabilly licks in there and lots of lady loving (to the tune of “Young Girls”).
The soul/funk/blues/every-man keeps it brief, the songs are drive-bys of furious energy, ardor and vintage familiarity that makes the music immediately likeable. He’s got that Charles Bradley edge, had Bradley found his way to original music 30 years earlier. He barks. He yowls. He seduces the microphone -- as much a tool as his fingertips bending guitar strings into simple but compelling chords.