Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The tour poster that Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears commissioned to help promote and commemorate the Austin band's summer tour, highlighted by an appearance at Lollapalooza in Chicago, was an aqua blue and black inked broadsheet of eight or ten different people and situations, scattered in an organized Brady Bunch/tic-tac-toe grid fashion. They gave very simple instructions to the local artist when she asked what the band wanted in the poster. They told her, "Well, Joe like snakes and tits." And those two pieces of subject matter - the frequent requests for bare or burdened biceps of old and hardened Marines and guys who ride hogs or just like themselves a good and dirty porn spread in a well-used Hustler or High Society - are featured in good force on the poster.
It's merely an extension of the raw and just plain honest music of Joe Lewis and his Memphis-flavored band of guitar, horn and pianah players. This band of merry - and lascivious - young men have the scent of last night's woman or women, a whole carton of smoked Camels, a boozy romp and lived in clothing - coming out of their amplifiers and speakers. It's thick and it's relentless as the tracks of Lewis' mind are laid in getting laid and enjoying the entire procedure, not just the final shudder and slump. It's about the approach and it's even more about the eyeful of lusty recognition that comes long before hopping on the bad foot and doing the good thing. It's about all of that undressing with the eyes that happens in the faint light of a bar or club. It's taking that shirt slowly off that front with imagination or hiking up that skirt up to the belly button and graphically picturing what that desire could do with a gentle push against the back wall or something to lean on.
This is all done from across the room, by Lewis, in his lyrics and in the kind of steamy and persuasive Booker T and the MGs, Stax Records charge, thump and groove that gets spilt out. This is also done in a very upfront way, you get the feeling, in many cases. Lewis is not shy around women and he goes out and tells them what he likes, where he likes it and asks them what they like and where they want it - though the answer to the where they want it part of the equation is usually intuitive on his part, the old dog. The songs that Lewis & the Honeybears do often and do so damned well are respectful odes to the animal urges that if anyone denies having them, it's safe to assume they're robotic or dead. These are the thoughts about someone you're attracted to by that unwritten magnetism, those invisible pheromones stick us like acupuncture needles all over our unsuspecting bodies, giving off some kind of dangerous heat. The heat spreads and it must be addressed one way or another. It starts with either the legs or the breasts and moves right on up or right on down the spine. Lewis salivates over these small things - those thighs, that ass, those melons - and just drinks them in, seeing them all along as unreal and luxurious theater and scenery. It's an obsession that makes for great song and for interesting mornings, if they drag on that long.