When: Tue., Jan. 25, 8-11 p.m.
Black Joe Lewis is the realest motherfucker there is. When Covid sidelined his touring this past year, 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, there were some that maintained that they hadn’t paid their dues. Joe’s still here. Still going. Still cashing checks and snapping necks. The dues of hard work; the delirious heights of the industry as well as the disappointments and low hanging fruit. Through this all, Joe’s only honed his mastery over gut bucket blues guitar and his true voice. It’s a vital and distinctly American voice that never anticipated the attention he wound up receiving, never went looking for it either. 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 very beginning and 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, the Strange Boys; these 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.
The blues is music for all time—past, present, and future—and few artists simultaneously exemplify those multiple temporal moments of the genre like North Mississippi’s Cedric Burnside. The Mississippi Hill Country blues guitarist and singer/songwriter contains within him the legacy and future of the region’s prescient sound stories. At once African and American and southern and Mississippian, these stories tell about love, hurt, connection, and redemption in the South. His newest contribution to this tradition is I Be Trying, a 13-track album treatise on life’s challenges, pleasures, and beauty. “Life can go any kind of way,” Burnside says. With almost 30 years of performing and living blues in him, he would know. Burnside’s blues inheritance, the North Mississippi Hill Country blues, is distinct from its Delta or Texas counterparts in its commitment to polyrhythmic percussion and its refusal of familiar blues chord progressions. Often, and especially in Burnside’s care, it leads with extended riffs that become sentences or pleas or exclamations, rendering the guitar like its West African antecedent, the talking drum. Riffs disappear behind and become one with the singer’s voice, like the convergence of hill and horizon in the distance. Sometimes they become the only voice, saying what the singer cannot conjure the words for. Across some nine individual and collaborative album projects, Burnside’s voice eases seamlessly into, through, and behind the riffs spirit gifts him, carrying listeners to a deep Mississippi well. There is mirror there in the water of that well, in Burnside’s music, that shows us who and what we have been, who we are,
and what we might be if we look and heed.