To hear Black Joe Lewis recorded is to strap yourself into an emotion fueled ride through his own brand of blues. To fully appreciate Lewis, however, you have to see him live, where the energy of both Lewis and his band, once known as The Honeybears, power the show on raw emotion. Whatever surrounds their live shows is completely lost to those on stage as they pour every ounce of themselves into the music and the happiness of doing so shows on their faces.
Electric Slave is slightly more polished than Lewis’ previous recordings. It maintains what seems to be a low-tech approach to creating and recording music. It feels organic, as if every song is simply the breath Lewis exhales. It is easy to see the band sitting around as ‘Come to My Party’ solidified thanks to an abundance of party supplies.
The real magic of Electric Slave isn’t so much what it is, as what it is not. It isn’t The Black Keys or Jack White, it is solidly Black Joe Lewis, a sound and energy all his own. While so many bands feel the need to emulate those with more success, Lewis maintains something that is his and his alone. He has a sound driven by his overwhelming desire to make the music he loves. Black Joe Lewis gives everything he has on every song as if he is willing himself to something greater all the time.
Lewis’ guitar playing is cleaner than past recordings, more sure and polished. The band as always remains solid and packed with fun. You have no idea how much fun until you see them live, which reveals just how much they love what they do.
Electric Slave is not just another Black Joe Lewis album; it is the next step forward. Nevertheless, make no mistake, it holds every bit of screaming guitar, wailing horns, and straining vocals that his fans love. Skulldiggin, Come to My Party, and Dar es Salaam are the stand-out tracks, but there isn’t a weak or ill-fitting song on the album.