Thursday, October 20, 2011

Black Joe Lewis And The Honeybears: Paris France (12-18-09)

Black Joe Lewis picked up his first guitar at the age of twenty while working at a pawn shop in Austin, Texas. Over the next few years he practiced and mastered his instrument. He formed a band called Cool Breeze which consisted of Joe on Guitar and Vocals and a rotating cast of characters backing him up. He secured a weekly gig at "The Hole in The Wall" a local Austin dive bar.

Joe continued his gigs there for a while. But he was beginning to get frustrated with music. The lineup of his band would change almost every week, and he wasn't getting any real attention. In 2007 Joe was considering leaving Austin and giving up on his music career. But fortunately at that time future Honeybears guitarist Zack Ernst was a student and member of University of Texas Music and Entertainment Committee. They were planning their annual 40 Acres Fest. Little Richard was to be the headliner and the Entertainment Committee needed an opener.

Ernst asked Joe to the be the opener. The show was a huge boost for Joe's career and opened him up to a lot of new opportunities. After the Little Richard show Ernst and Joe developed a friendship based around a mutual affinity for blues and soul music particularly the contemporary blues artists on Fat Possum Records like Junior Kimbrough and R.L.Burnside. Soon Ernst became a member of the Cool Breeze.

Despite his recent success Joe still had some trepidations about his future in music. The Cool Breeze wasn't a stable group of dedicated musicains. Joe got offered a gig at an Austin club called The Parish but he was going to turn it down because he didn't have a band. Zach Ernst, who wanted to play the gig, got together a group of his college friends to form a horn section and help round off the rhythm section. This band eventually became The Honeybears. They retained the blues style of Joe's earlier work but incorporated new elements of deep soul, funk, and punk.

In 2008 interview, Zach Ernst was asked to describe the Band's sound. He responded:
Well, Joe came up with “garage soul” and we all liked that. We draw from influences like James Brown and Howlin’ Wolf, and also from ‘70s punk rock, garage rock, the Sonics and the Monks. We’re definitely influenced by all the great, older blues and rock-and-roll artists. Joe plays a really unique style of guitar, like an aggressive lead guitar. Having two loud guitars in the band isn’t really something that any of those soul bands we love so much really ever did. 

This was show recorded December 18th, 2009 for the French television program Live De La Semaine (Live This Week) the same year year Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears released their first full length album Tell em What You're Name Is. This show is comprised of eight tracks off their debut album.

This record begins with a promo featuring a smooth talking frenchmen introducing the band over a recording of "Get Yo' Shit", one of the few songs from their record they don't perform for this show. The first song "Gunpowder" comes off harder with more firepower than it does on their record. It only takes a second to realize that Black Joe is at his best performing live.

Joe introduces "Bitch I Love You" by saying this is our hit. He says this with a hint of Irony. It is one of their more popular songs but it is also caused the band a lot of troubles. Their tongue and chic lyrics have earned them a reputation for misogyny and "Bitch I Love You" has done the most to perpetuate that image. They got kicked off of a tour with Al Green because he found it offensive. They also had a Baraka Obama staff member threaten to pull the plug on them if they played at it a 2008 presidential rally in Austin. Lewis has stated that he likes opening for bands like The New York Dolls because their fans are not as easily offended and he can play whatever he wants “I’m not ashamed of doing ‘Bitch, I love you’ in front of them." he said, "You do that in front of a jam band, and there’s like, feminist chicks who freak out.”

This recording ends the same way the album does on a high note, with "Please Pt. Two". It is an extremely heavy track full of tension and psychotic screaming that would put Iggy on edge. This live mix features a particularly pronounced Saxophone freak-out that is very reminiscent Steve Mackay's sax playing on Fun House.     

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
Le Live De La Semaine
Location: Paris France
Date: 12.18.09
Size: 27.4mb
Runtime: 30min
Source: French Television Broadcast

Set List:
00. Sexy French Introduction
01. Gunpowder
02. Sugarfoot.
03. I'm Broke
04. Big Booty Woman
06. Bitch I love You
07. Bobby Bouchet
08. Please Pt. Two

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Keith Richards - Toronto Tapes

1976 was a dark time for Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones. They hadn't released a great record since Exile on Main Street (1972) and their last attempt in the studio, Black and Blue (1976), was the worst album they had made to date. The Stone's have a long history of drug busts, deportation, and operating in exile, but by the late seventies the joke was getting old. Keith Richard's severe heroin habit was getting in the way of his creativity. Mick Jagger, who felt that Richards had lost it, had taken over most of the creative control of the band. This lowered the overall quality of their performances and put strains on rock and roll's most famous songwriting duo.

During this turbulent time The Stones had been recording a Live double-album: Love You Live. This album only featured a few of their current songs. It was mostly made up of old blues numbers or Stone's originals from their glory days.

During this time Keith Richards relationship with his long time lover, Anita Pallenberg was stressed as well by the obligations of fame and dark nature of Heroin addiction. Anita was an actress and a model. She had originally been Brian Jone's girlfriend but she ended up with Keith. She gave birth to three of Keith's children. Their youngest child died on June 6, 1976 at less than three months of age. That night after finding out about the death of his youngest son, Keith Richards performed in Paris. Some of the performance from that night were used on Love You Live. Both Anita and Keith had been very strung out on cocaine and heroin, before during, and after the pregnancy of their third child. When the baby died things only got worse.

A few months later in March of 1977 Love You Live had still not been completed. The Stones decided to finish off the long overdue album with a few club dates. At the time they were only playing large stadiums and they thought it would be good to get back to their roots by playing somewhere small and intimate. They chose the El Mocambo Tavern in Toronto because Keith didn't need a visa to get into Canada and most other countries would not have him.

The Canadian shows seemed like a good idea but trouble started immediately. Keith showed up four days late and missed a number of rehearsals. Upon entering the country customs found a chunk of hash and a blackened spoon in Anita's purse. The couple was permitted to enter the country but the spoon and hash were held as evidence.

On February 28th, 1977 fifteen Canadian Mounties busted Keith Richards in his hotel room. Less than 24 hours after entering the countries Keith had procured an ounce of heroin and five grams of cocaine. Even though he had gotten the drugs in Toronto the Canadian goverment was charging him with trafficking. All of a sudden Keith found himself in jail looking at a potential sentence of seven years to life.

Keith got out on bail shortly after his arrest. He pulled things together enough to make it to rehersal and on March 4th and 5th the Stones recorded the final shows for their live album at El Mocambo. Afterwards Keith still needed to stay in the country to attend his upcoming court dates. The rest of the Stones, freaked out to find that Keith was still holding drugs, promptly fled the country and tried to distance themselves from Keith as much as possible.

On the night of March 12th 1977 Keith found himself alone in Toronto's Interchange Studios. The next day was his final court date where he would receive his sentence. On that long night, abandonced by his band and thinking about spending the rest of his live in a Canadian prison, he decided to record a few songs. These are the first recordings ever of Keith as a solo artist. He recorded five extremely somber and poignant old country songs. Keith had learned all these tunes from Gram Parsons, a fellow musician and country music enthusiast, before his untimely death in 1973.

The first track, "Worried Life Blues" is an Old Traditional song originally recorded in 1941 by "Big Maceo" Merriweather on vocals and piano, and Tampa Red on guitar. It is a sad song about loss but it may be the happiest song on this record because it hints at slightly better days ahead. "Worried Life Blues" was covered by countless blues artists and then later by rock musicians. It has often been heavily embellished both musically and lyrically, but Richard's rendition is surprisingly faithful to the original tune.

"Sing Me Back" home was originally recorded by Merle Haggard in 1968. This is a fitting tune for Keith to sing while awaiting trial. The song tells the story of a death row inmate on his way to the chair. His final request is to have someone sing him the same song his mama use to sing him as a child. The Prisoner seems to feel that if he can here that song one more time that it would take him back to his childhood and by listening to the song he could tranced his imprisonment and impending death. Keith's rendition of this song actually sounds more sorrowful and depressing than the Merle Haggard version.

"She Still Comes Around" was a song written by Country songwriter Glenn Sutton and first recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis in 1969. It's about a drunken fuck up who is always disapointing his wife. But despite his flaws his wife is always there to love him and take care of him when he is at his lowest.

"Apartment #9" was a Johnny Paycheck song about a rejected man who sits alone in an apartment shrouded in darkness hoping his ex-lover will forgive him and come back home.

The final track "Say It's Not You" was written by country songwriter Dallas Frazier for George Jones in 1968. It's about a heartbroken man. He's heard rumors of a wild woman in town who would go home with a diffrent man every night. After hearing about her the man realizes the other men are describing the woman he loves. In 1994 Keith Richards recoreded this song again as a duet with George Jones on the "The Bradley Barn Sessions".

There is a common theme of regret and remorse over failed opportunities and a wasted life that runs through these sessions. Every track is written from the perspective of a man who has pissed away the best days of his life in a drunken, strung-out stupor. They are poignant lamentations for Richards to be singing the night before he his sentencing. These songs could have been written by Richards himself if they had not already been written by generations of country and blues-men years before him. 

With his firm repuatation as an ultra-heroin addicted rock mega-star it's hard to remember that Keith Richards was once an awkward teenage choir-boy who just wanted to play rock and roll and meet girls. His vocals on this whole record are surprisingly angelic. Beneath the years of excess and regret you can almost hear that choir boy crying out. These tapes were made on the other side of addiction and stardom, but through the haze you can you catch a glimpse of Keith at his most raw and vulnerable.

Keith Richards - The Toronto Tapes
DATE: March 12th, 1977
Location: Sounds Interchange Studios, Toronto, Canada
Source: Demo
Duration: 16:06
Size: 37.04 MB

1. Worried Life Blues            
2. Sing Me Back Home        
3. She Still Comes Around    
4. Apartment No. 9                  
5. Say It's Not You