What is it that consumes young men’s thoughts? If, perchance, you’ve forgotten pick up a copy of Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybear’s sophomore release. Ah, yes, now you remember. Living up to its name, Scandalous pumps with testosterone-driven lust, bravado, and passion, not to mention a smokin’ band that is peaking after 2 non-stop years of touring. If this record doesn’t heat you up it’s time to check the furnace for fuel.
Obviously there’s more to young men then sex but that is primarily what drives Lewis’ smoldering compositions; loving, cheating, revenge, redemption, hardships and partying are the red hot core of an album that spins on an axis of blues, rock, funk, and soul, and Lewis and the band deliver the goods with gusto and precision. Returning as producer is Spoon’s drummer, Jim Eno. Instead of trying to replicate the band’s successful debut, he encourages them to evolve by defining and expanding their realm of influences.
Scandalous opens with the funky “Livin’ in the Jungle” in which Lewis mixes the metaphorical with the literal fantasy of moving to the Amazon. “I’m Leavin’ You” is pure Mississippi hill-country blues with languid rhythms, blazing horn section, and Lewis’ scolding vocals. By the time we hit the 3rd track, “Booty City,” we’re in party land and the boys are letting it rip. “Black Snake” finds Lewis shouting out his desperate sexual needs, backed by horns and fiery harmonica. The title track adds elements of ‘70s soul. “Messin” sounds like a Robert Johnson number but with Lewis singing in the style of early Mick Jagger.
There's quite a bit of risqué material on the album, including the fore mentioned “Black Snake.” The raunchiest number is “Mustang Ranch,” Lewis’ account of visiting the infamous brothel. The song finds him negotiating with the ladies as to what he can afford with $20. I learned a new term from the song and now I’ll never look at glazed ham the same way - so much for Easter dinner.
There are a couple of terrific surprises on the album. The band’s cover of Solomon Burke’s “Since I Met You Baby” features a trumpet solo, Wurlitzer, and offers a more sensitive side of Lewis. “You’ve Been Lyin,” is a fascinating mix of grinding rock and gospel. The song features The Relatives, a Dallas gospel/funk group founded by Reverend Gean West in 1970. In an inspired choice for a song that is politically charged. Lewis wraps the disc with “Jesus Took My Hand,” a mix of rock-injected spiritual.
Joe Lewis grew up surrounded by rap and hip-hop culture. Although he maintains much of the macho attitude of rap he’s gravitated toward a unique mix of other musical influences, citing Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Bo Diddley as inspirations. It’s a rare talent who can so seamlessly merge these diverse sounds. Mr. Lewis has earned his bragging rights – at least when it comes to music.