Becoming a music fan is a lot like becoming a sports fan – you have to have someone to roof for. But, while we usually chose our sports heroes based on where we’re from, our music muses can be from anywhere. The key is finding a reason to relate to rock stars who live lives so wildly unlike ours that we can still imagine sharing a beer (or a fifth of tequila if you’re drinking with Charlie Sheen) with them on Friday nights.
The grooving groups below are this month’s bands you should be listening to and for one reason or another are folks I’ve found a way to relate to and root for. Want to know what a Lord of The Rings- loving white kid like me has in common with the silky smooth singing black dude lead singer of Joe Lewis and The Honey Bears? The waist down won’t surprise you (womp, womp). The waist up just might. Read on.
Band of Horses
If you’ve never watched a rock show live from the pit, stop whatever you’re doing (er, maybe wash your hands first) and go buy pit tickets to one of your favorite bands immediately. There is literally nothing in the word comparable to jamming out alongside a great act so close you can touch them with like-minded folks you know love the music as much as you do because they shelled out the cash (or handjobs) to be there.
The photo above (taken with my Dora the Explorer camera phone) is of my goofy ass on the right and a friend doing just that while grinning from ear to ear as my favorite musician, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, emerged on stage to lay a sick guitar solo alongside the kick ass group Band of Horses.
If ears could orgasm, I had at least three.
Band of Horses is a five-man band originally hailing from Seattle that now calls Charleston, South Carolina home. Led by group mainstay Ben Bridwell, the guys just launched their fourth album, Mirage Rock, in September. The folksy rock meets country twang focused album has helped firmly cement Band of Horses in the kind-of-a-big-deal category as they continue to open for bonafide icons like MMJ, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam. Oh, and Glyn Johns of The Who and Ryan Adams fame produced the album. In the world of music, that’s like having Josh Hamilton join your men’s league softball team to hit cleanup for the season.
The new album is an interesting mix of jams that were played live-to-tape for the first time in the band’s recording history. No dubbing over vocals or drum solos here folks – unlike anything you’ll hear from our politicians over the next couple months, what you hear is what you get. Some reviewers have noted the tunes are a little lighter than the rock and roll fans are used to, but I’m not so sure – the baseline for “Knock, Knock” is harder than Jerry Sandusky in line at Magic Kingdom on Boy Scout Appreciation Day.
Also be sure to check out their older stuff – I’m personally a big fan of their cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Georgia” in 2010 that featured UGA’s Red Coat Marching Band. Per the review below, I’m Roll Tide ‘till I die, but ever since American Pie, I’m convinced all band chicks are freaks and any excuse to polish some college brass is a good idea in my book. Want to slow it down and get a little introspective on the progression of your life? Check out “Is There a Ghost” from the Cease to Begin Record – their version for Letterman back in ’07 was good stuff.
As anyone with direct lineage to the great state of Alabama can tell you, there is not a more important decision in an Alabamian’s life than selecting to support the University of Alabama or Auburn. Choosing the prior is a sign of class, grace and winning football. Choosing the second is a sign of cow pastures and broken dreams. If you’re holding your breath waiting for a JK or LOL, don’t. You will NeedToBreathe at some point. Roll Tide.
Fortunately for Bear and Bryant Rinehart of the rock band NeedToBreathe, they were born to parents who understood the beauty of houndstooth. Named after legendary Bama football coach, Bear Bryant, the guys were born and raised in Rural Possum Kingdom (as opposed to Urban Skunk Province), South Carolina. Bear was a nasty wide receiver who eventually decided hauling in hail marys wasn’t near as fun as singing about them, so he joined Bryant and buddy Seth Bolt to create one of the more interesting mainstream / Christian rock groups of the past decade.
Didn’t think you’d read about religious rock at TSJ? We cover all kinds here, friends – good music is good music and these guys can belt with the best of them.
Their latest effort, The Reckoning, found its way to number six on the Billboard 200 Album Chart late last year and since then, the fellas have been playing with the likes of Train, Will Hoge, Collective Soul and country princess, Taylor Swift. To date, Swift hasn’t written any angry breakup songs about them (John Mayer, you had to know it was coming, bro), but give it time – the country cutie goes through relationships fast quickly Swiftly.
Specific recco? Give “Slumber” a try – it’s catchy enough to be the first single released from The Reckoning and begs to be downloaded as a wake up ring tone. If you’re looking for a comparison, ThePooper14 commented on their YouTube page that it was like Kings of Leon and Mumford and Sons had a child. The mechanics of that procreation equation get tricky fast, but I do agree with the old Poopster. Nice equation, man – you’re the shit!
Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears
The main reason I love reading and writing about music is my rock and roll subjects are more honest and raw than any of us can afford to be. Take Joe Lewis for example. Several months ago he was interviewed by The Chicago Tribune – one of the most prestigious newspapers in the country whose writers have intimidated everyone from Barack Obama to Sammy Sosa with their hard-hitting, no nonsense questions. When the interviewer asked Lewis about the inspiration for one of his recent songs, “Mustang Ranch,” Lewis didn’t bat an eye before responding. To paraphrase…yes, we stopped at that whore house…yep, it was real weird…don’t worry, none of us caught any nasty shit.
Too raw for your taste? Too bad, because ever since Black Joe Lewis (Black is part of the official band name. I’m not racist. My best friend is black!) pulled his first guitar off the wall of the pawn shop he was working at in Austin, Texas in , he’s been telling it like it is – one gutsy, bluesy rock and roll jam at a time. See below for the proof.
“Masters Sold My Baby” – In this blues ballad, Lewis and crew tell a sad, true story of a slave arriving at port only to find his family will be split up. The song is heavy, deep, depressing – and an absolute must listen. Like the Sirens of Greece, Lewis’ soulful voice doesn’t give you a choice but to listen.
“Bitch, I Love You” – This highly aggressive breakup song officially put Lewis on the map for making balls out music and not apologizing about it. It also ensured he would never be invited to Gloria Steinem’s birthday party or invited to tour with Al Green who canned them after hearing this little diddy. To which, Lewis replied “It was a fucking joke!” Then, he went and opened for President Obama in Austin weeks later. Surprisingly, this gem didn’t make it on the presidential set list.
“Mustang Ranch” – Seriously, I can’t get over this one. Lewis and all his trumpet-wielding Honey Bears pulled into this brothel after a gig with $20 and a serious desire to get their “hams glazed.” They then hibernated with some scantily clad lady bears and penned a song about it immediately after. Finding a bed for these bears sounds a lot less complicated than Goldilocks made it sound.
Rawness aside, these guys can blow and they’re a really fun show to see live as Lewis croons like James Brown and the Honey Bears play the brass with reckless abandon. Their latest album, Scandalous, dropped last year and is a nice intro to The University of Big-Band Boogie if you’re so inclined to major in Muddy Waters and minor in The Rolling Stones. Understanding what the hell Lewis is actually saying can be challenging, but don’t worry – if your toes are tapping and you find yourself dancing with a pretty lady, you get an A in the school of rock.
Related on The Smoking Jacket:
3 Bands You Should Be Listening To: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Florence and the Machine, and Band of Skulls
3 Bands You Should Be Listening To: Lukas Nelson, The Walkmen, and Ghostland Observatory