Local Wire

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears @ Crescent Ballroom

When operating in a genre that's decidedly retro, a little bit of self-awareness is necessary. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking like you're living, writing songs, and performing in a hermetic time-warp bubble. Someone like the fiery Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are a terrific band — but their lyrics and arrangements lack in the surprise department. Some of the new crop of soul singers, though, tip a hat to the past without genuflecting completely. Take Austin's Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, for instance. While the band plays muscular, energetic R&B numbers — heavy on the rhythm, heavy on the blues — the lyrics flirt with eternal soulman woes (no cash, too many exes) in a decidedly contemporary way ("Bitch! I love you"). Lewis' raunchy songs and performances sometimes wink at the audience too predictably, but Lewis never goes over the edge into camp territory. Lewis and his Honeybears' self-titled 2009 debut EP was an efficient four tracks, packing power, wit, and charisma into the tunes, which found the common ecstatic link between James Brown and Richard Pryor. This year's Scandalous followed up the band's first full-length Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! It's irreverent, it's good, and it's doing for R&B and soul what bands like The Pogues did for traditional Irish tunes.