Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears Shake Chicago

joelewisOn Saturday night, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears unleashed their ultra-groovy sound on a largely unsuspecting Chicago crowd. It took all of about 30 seconds for that crowd to stop staring and start dancing. Suddenly, the North Side of Chicago was awash in a new blues, with some funk tossed in for good measure.

“Chicago’s always good man,” Lewis told us after the show. “Out of all the three major cities, Chicago is number one.” There’s little doubt that Chicago doesn’t feel the same way about Lewis and The Honeybears after an inspired performance.

Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears are a relatively “new” band, but their music comes from a place of old souls. Lewis evokes the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown; one of his influences, along with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf and Eazy-E. While purists might scoff at those comparisons (likely they haven’t seen him live yet) consider this: James Brown scored his first R&B #1 hit “Try Me” when he was just 25 years old. Redding became a legend before his tragic death at age 26.

Another influence on Lewis is a man by the name of Little Joe Washington, whom Lewis talks about in our interview with him (see video below). Essentially, Washington is a street musician with paying gigs from time to time. And it’s that street-wise sensibility, improvisational flair and live-in-the-moment attitude that permeates Lewis’ music and lyrics.

Back in the day (just a few years ago) Lewis was working in a pawn shop. After seeing a number of hocked guitars come over the counter, he finally picked one up. “I got the guitar and just tried to learn it,” says Lewis. “My neighbors had a band. They didn’t have to work, all they had to do was play music. I thought; dude I gotta get in on that! I just tried to learn as much as I could. That’s how I really started performing … I hated my day job.”

Thank goodness for bad day jobs.

Below is a video from Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears’ performance at Chicago’s Folk and Roots Festival, including a few different songs and interview footage of both Joe Lewis and keyboardist Ian Varley. Tour dates are below the video – go see them.


Jul 17 2009 6:00P Latitude Festival Southwold, Suffolk, London
Jul 18 2009 8:00P Lovebox Festival London
Jul 21 2009 8:00P Jazz Cafe London, London and South East
Jul 23 2009 8:00P Valkhof Affaire Nijmegen, Gelderland
Jul 24 2009 8:00P Sala Heineken Madrid, Spain
Jul 25 2009 8:00P San Sebastian Jazz Festival San Sebastian, Guip├║zcoa
Aug 7 2009 4:00P Lollapalooza, Vitamin Water Stage Chicago, Illinois
Aug 8 2009 2:00P San Jose Jazz Festival, Main Stage San Jose, California
Aug 8 2009 7:00P San Jose Jazz Festival, Blues Stage San Jose, California
Aug 22 2009 4:00P CD101 Summerfest, LC Pavilion Columbus, Ohio
Aug 26 2009 8:00P Bluebird Theater Denver, Colorado
Aug 27 2009 7:00P Salt Lake City Arts, Twilight Series Salt Lake City, Utah
Aug 29 2009 8:00P Street Scene San Diego, California
Aug 31 2009 8:00P Troubadour Los Angeles, California
Sep 3 2009 10:00A The Depot Humboldt State Univ. Arcata, California
Sep 4 2009 8:00P Mississippi Studios Portland, Oregon
Sep 6 2009 8:00P Media Club Vancouver, British Columbia
Sep 7 2009 8:00P Bumbershoot – Mural Seattle, Washington
Oct 14 2009 8:00P ACL Festival Austin, Texas

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