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October 29, 2020
Notes From ACL: Saturday Soul Explosion 9.27.08 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 October 2008 02:20
By Sarah Schoenfelder - GJD
The one act I vowed I wouldn’t miss on this year’s Austin City Limits lineup was Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. But after waiting half an hour in the hot sun, a haze of dust and smoke burning my eyes, I began to wonder if I’d made a mistake selecting this midday show. But as soon as the Dap Kings assembled on stage, the horn section and retro guitar riffs rounding the edges, I knew I was in the right place.  

Sharon Jones soon joined her band on stage, and her warm voice took the crowd to a place far from the dusty festival grounds: born in Brooklyn but raised in the south, Jones has a voice that oozes classic 60s soul, with a little Muscle Shoals thrown in for good measure. Hard to believe Jones once worked as a prison guard on Rikers Island and only found her place in music recently; she sounds like she’s been doing this her whole life.  

Jones delivers soul and funk with a devotion to the genre’s sound but an attitude entirely her own. Her band confidently backed her with precision of the 60s razor cut suits they wore in spite of the heat.  Soon Jones transformed a cranky festival crowd into her shimmying acolytes, the whole mess of us shaking along with her as she belted out tunes such as ‘Be Easy,’ ‘How Do I Let a Good Man Down,’ and ‘100 Days, 100 Nights.’  She took her high heels off and boogied with us in the hot sun. In Jones’ hands, everyone of us felt a little bit of Memphis soul in the middle of Austin.

I decided to keep the soul groove going by wandering over to the Austin Ventures stage to watch Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. I’d heard a lot of buzz about the Texas native, but hadn’t had a chance to see one of his live shows yet.

Black Joe Lewis did not disappoint. His tight brand of soul exploded at the rapt crowd; the instrumentals supple, his vocals bursts of staccato. On songs like ‘Boogie’ and ‘Please’ his eight-piece band offered classic soul backing with a swipe of punk rock.  Standing on stage with a shiny Tele hanging off his thin frame, Black Joe Lewis’ swagger and on-stage-charisma was already firmly in place despite his 26 years. But mind you, this music isn’t image-based: it’s clear Joe’s studied classics.  Channeling James Brown in one tune, Otis Redding on the next, and wearing an Eazy-E tee the whole time, it’s clear Black Joe Lewis is on his way to his own brand of big things.  


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