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Black Joe Lewis is the realest motherfucker there is. When COVID-19 sidelined his touring, he started laying concrete to help support his baby mama and his kid. That’s fuckin’ real. When Joe and his band, the Honeybears, popped onto the national stage over a decade ago, many critics embraced him, but still, some maintained that they hadn’t paid their dues. Joe’s still here. He was still going. I’m still cashing checks and snapping necks. The rights of hard work, the delirious heights of the industry, as well as the disappointments and low-hanging fruit. Joe’s only honed his mastery over gutbucket blues guitar and his authentic voice through this all. It’s a vital and distinctly American voice that never anticipated the attention he received and never went looking for it. It just started happening. The garage, the blues, the propulsive and synergistic live performances that inhabit the spaces of James Brown, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and the MC5…those things happened naturally from the beginning. They could only be accurately communicated in the live experience, not a press release or a slick brand campaign. Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Cedric Burnside and Lightnin Malcolm, The Dirtbombs, Detroit Cobras, and the Strange Boys are some of the artists that Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears shared countless bills with; almost a roll call of the most influential soul and garage bands of the last twenty-five years. Has the soul blues garage explosion from that era been commodified or worked into the overall template of pop rock? Sure. But the ground floor was a vital space for people who like guitars and grease, and at this point, Black Joe Lewis was one of the last standings there. Last of a dying breed. Or maybe a missing link. Does this make him a throwback? A throwback to a throwback? It’d be tempting and easy for Joe to go along with that, but nah, we don’t think so. We know that Joe Lewis is genuinely doing his thing and doing it regardless of what’s coming down the pipe: he is a stone-cold original and a veteran. If you like whistling in your music and some floppy hat, quaky kneed dudes cloyingly singing at you, then you might not “get it,” but whatever…there are enough intrepid, degenerate weirdos that do. Those are the folks Joe cares about. It’s not the glad-handing set. Not the fair-weather friend set getting down with the flavor of the month. As the title of his last album says, “The difference between you and me,” is Joe defining for himself that there are the labored wannabes, and then there are dudes that actually “HAVE the blues”…whatever the hell THAT is! Joe’s concrete pouring boss is going to miss him.