Black Joe Lewis has come a long way since his 2008 hit "Bitch, I Love You." His sensibility has refined, in the sense that he less self-consciously exploits the chitlin-circuit iconography his name and that song title evoke, but he is still a boogie wild man. Lewis is selling a kind of punk version of funk and soul. As he develops, that version becomes less sloppy and more furiously intense. His most recent album, 2011's Scandalous, is tighter and quieter than 2009's Tell 'Em What Your Name Is. Lewis is still capable of hitting the power shots, though, as on the screamed-through "Since I Met You Baby." As his natural talent converges on the musically demanding tradition of Texas roadhouse soul, he seems to come closer to the ecstatic release he has been reaching for throughout his career.
The Honeybears are getting tighter and more dynamic, and Lewis himself is developing more intermediate settings between talking and yelling. It would appear that they are approaching the height of their powers. Now is the time for Black Joe Lewis to make good on his natural gifts. He seems more comfortable with the quiet parts, and that makes the screams more thrilling.
Black Joe Lewis plays The Top Hat Thu., Aug. 14, at 9 PM. Doors open at 8. $16/$14 advance.