|Growing up in Picayune Mississippi, only an hour north of New Orleans, the cradle of American music, Joe Lewis certainly heard every kind of music where the lines between genres are thin and the roots of each genre intertwine as they grow. That line has always been blurred between blues and gospel, two genres that are considered the source of all modern music. As a gifted musician the choice to play electric guitar and sing words of praise is not a new thing; Sister Rosetta Tharpe pioneered the genre in the early 50’s. However, the Joe Lewis Band is a trailblazer in Contemporary Christian Blues music.
Joe Lewis and his power trio of Tom Cole on bass and drummer Derrick Enyard began 2020 by representing the Lake of the Ozarks Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. They then embarked on recording their fourth album enlisting super producer Kevin Shirley to mix the album at his famous studio, The Cave, in Sydney Australia and having the album mastered by the legendary Bob Ludwig. This A-team clearly delivered to create a first-class sonic landscape with ten original tracks, a mixture of straight-ahead blues, funk and rockin’ soul centered around Lewis’ stellar guitar playing and sparkling tenor vocals. The rambunctious spirit of the album and its words of positivity and praise strive to blur the line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
The session opens with a chiming guitar that leads us into the unconventional love song ‘I Like It,’ with words of devotion set to a funky groove. Lewis continues to give praise for his beloved on the soul track ‘Hot Lovin’ Momma,’ doing his best James Brown, along with special guest Biscuit Miller laying down an authentic Bootsy Collins’ bass line. The jump blues ‘Can I Get With You,’ features furious fretboard work and playful lyrics on a great danceable number. Lewis spells out his devotion as a seeker on the dynamic ‘Do Your Work In Me’ and then delivers a touching tribute to a dearly departed sister on the emotional ballad ‘Broken Angel Of The Delta,’ a real highlight of the album.
The second half of the session begins with the account of the night Lewis discovered his calling while listening to a real bluesman at a local jook joint on the edgy ‘Do Drop Inn,’ and then proceeds to lead the fellows through a blazing instrumental ‘Twang A Doodle Boom Boom,’ swinging with fury. The trio continuous to show off their proficiency of authentic blues forms on the Texas shuffle ‘Baby Rocks The Boat,’ and another time shifting funk blast ‘Defying Gravity,’ with a clever lyrical twist. Lewis ends the set with an acoustic driven devotional ‘Jesus I Love The Way You Love,’ a sincere benediction from a faithful servant.
“Up Next,” from the Joe Lewis Band, should prove to be another fine tool in their mission to open hearts and minds as well as doors.
Rick J Bowen
You can tell a lot about a person when you learn where they were raised and came of age. In Joe’s case Picayune Mississippi, located about an hour or so from New Orleans. The sounds of the Delta and blues music were the forever background music Joe heard while growing up. So, it is no wonder that those sounds deeply influenced him as he picked up his first guitar at age ten and began to play. Many years of dedication to blues and gospel are now paying off, with some nice recognition along the way from Buddy Guy (the band regularly performs at Legend’s at Buddy’s invitation) and participation in the International Blues Challenge.
But there is another part to Joe and really is the reason he does what he does today. In fact, it is not only his biggest influence, but also the controlling influence in his life now. At age 25 after struggling with all the pitfalls and sins of the music industry and hitting a low spot in his life, Joe was led back to Jesus.
Joe with the help of his faith was able to turn things around, re-focus his life in a new direction and develop the gospel messages that are part of his songs today. “The way to influence people with your music, is to put your own heart and soul on the line for all the world to see,” says Joe. “If your heart and soul are right and your message is right you now have the power to influence people in a positive direction.” In this case, both the power of Jesus and the power of music have united in a dynamic fashion to bring souls to Christ and sound amazing in the process.
The Joe Lewis Band have three previous albums to their name: “Grace, Faith & Blues” (2015), “Love From A Distance” (2012), and “Good News Blues” (2009).