Black Joe Lewis: Back to Basics

Music Features Black Joe Lewis
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If you only heard Black Joe Lewis sing—his voice whooping wildly, careening like a soulful, souped-up Civic toward some hidden Georgia liquor store on a Sunday—you might imagine his hobbies combine moonshine and porch parties. If you only heard him speak—plucking upwards with a mysterious surfer cadence—you might assume he’s not up ‘til noon on most days. Perhaps he celebrates by blowing dust off a mediocre, warm bottle of champagne. Perhaps he has a case of the stuff, prepared to quench a whole barn full of friends.

But no. A few days before this soulman revivalist’s 32nd birthday, he tells Paste over the phone he has very different plans.

“[I’m] going on a hunting trip with a buddy of mine,” he says. Oh? “…Pigs. This is actually my first time.”

He explains his friend’s general outdoor prowess and experience hunting wild boars. Lewis’s interest, though, isn’t so much in the journey as the destination.

“I wanna get to [the point] where I don’t have to buy meat from the store,” he says. His grand plan involves situating a storage freezer in his Austin, Texas garage to keep fresh all the food he personally slaughters.

“Hungry? Thaw it out, eat it,” he says. Simple!

But it’s not like the celebratory weekend and practice moving forward is a willy-nilly, deranged free-for-all.

“There’s so many [boars],” he explains. “I don’t wanna go out to kill animals just to do it—yah know? They’re feral, there’s plenty of ‘em… I wanna respect the animals.”?

After some meditation, it makes sense Lewis wants to get basic. His new record’s title, Electric Slave, nods to society’s phone obsession—our electronic leashes. Despite the inspiration, the album itself doesn’t seem to address that explicitly. It’s a strong collection of hoots, hollers, feel-good music. It’s the awesome aural keg party Lewis’ legacy promised, a theme as timeless as a tall cold one after a tough week.

But the throwback quality of his music is not a revelation. Since his debut Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is in 2009, the connections between Lewis and soul and funk greats from yesterday have zig-zagged countless times. Shortly before this interview, I heard the best: A visibly drunk dude donned a Black Joe Lewis T and stood swaying in the corner of a Brooklyn music venue. I approached him, mentioned the interview and he interrupted—“If James Brown and Buddy Guy had a child and dropped him on his head, it’s Black Joe Lewis.” I tell Lewis. He laughs. A lot.

“I guess that’s cool,” he finally says. And that’s just Lewis in a nutshell—cool.?

How far will this nod to the past go?, I ask. How do he and his friend plan to slay these hogs? Crossbow, maybe?

“Hah, no, [that] takes a little more skill,” he laughs.

So… maybe a goal for next birthday?