Black Joe Lewis has zero fucks left to give, at least when it comes to the music industry. He spent 10 years or so bouncing around labels like Lost Highway, Vagrant, and INgrooves Music Group, making albums full of heavy, funky guitar rock spiked with a warm, analog-style sound, and R&B revue horns courtesy of his band, the Honeybears. Trafficking in a sound similar to what JJ Grey & Mofro have been doing of late, his music had a sparse, skeletally primal thump that left plenty of room for his chunky, blues-fueled guitar playing.

The just-released The Difference Between Me & You, however, is a different proposition altogether. The sound is darker than anything Lewis has ever put out before, burying his guitar in swampy, grungy funk grooves (“Face in the Scene”), barbed-wire roadhouse blues (“Nothing But a Cliché”), raw, propulsive raveups (“Culture Vulture”), and disjointed garage rock (“Gut Feeling”), topped off with a muddy, sinister cover of Wilco’s “Handshake Drugs” that makes the song sound like a deep album cut on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Green River.

In short, this is a “dark night of the soul” album, to be sure, kind of like Black Joe Lewis’ own There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Like that Sly Stone classic, all the things people latched onto in Lewis’ music (the blues-rock thump, the soul-shouter voice, the greasy guitar) have been subverted into a much darker, world-weary sound.

The lyrics follow suit with the music. Titles like “Face in the Scene” and “Nothing But a Cliché” hint at the album’s suspicion of the music industry and tastemakers, and it’s telling that The Difference Between Me & You is Lewis’ first self-released album; no label required, or desired.

“It’s called The Difference Between Me & You because it sets us apart from other people,” Lewis says. “We’re talking about real shit. We’ve been a band for a long time now; a lot of people have come and gone, and a lot of the album is about that. It’s about trying to keep your head above water, especially with the shit that goes down in this business. It’s about the scene, how you move through it, and dealing with industry types.”

Industry types? That phrase begs for further explanation.

“The kind of people who are your best friends when you’re working with them but then when you’re done working with them, you don’t hear from them anymore,” Lewis says.

It might be largely about business, but the album feels personal. On “Gut Feeling,” Lewis sings about depression so deep that he fantasizes about “a .45 in my ear.” The grim “Do Yourself In” seems to encourage suicide. But Lewis says even those songs take their inspiration from what he’s seen the past 10 years in the music business, even if he’s writing metaphorically in the songs themselves.

“That is my personal life,” he says, “because it’s what I see in the music scene. It’s stuff that’s happened to me.”

As for the album’s raw, live-in-the-studio sound, Lewis says he was very conscious of making the album sound like it was being recorded onstage in a club.

“We tried to keep the record as live sounding as possible,” he says. “We used to go in and do a lot of overdubs, but this time around we wanted to leave it at two guitars. We didn’t want to layer a bunch of shit like we did last time, so we left it as live as possible. I wanted a natural sound, something that we could put out and recreate onstage.”

That was important for Lewis because, as a newly independent artist, he feels like his live show is his most reliable calling card.

“I feel like we’re strongest onstage,” he says. “We’re known for our live show and we wanted to put that on the vinyl. I know a lot of bands that consider themselves ‘studio bands,’ but our bread and butter is the stage, so we tried to recreate that.”

Despite the album’s dark tone, Lewis says he’s happy with the finished product, because it melds all of his musical interests into one cohesive sound.

“To me, all the genres are the same thing,” he says. “Soul to me is blues with horns on it. I wanted to mix all those styles and make them one thing. My last few albums were mostly rock songs with occasional blues or soul or funk, but this one we brought it all together into one thing.”

And if the music industry at large doesn’t catch onto what Lewis is doing on his own now, well, fuck ’em.

“We don’t have a place in the music industry,” he says. “We have our fans, and we tour, we put out our albums. It might grow, it might not. We’re doing our own thing, trying to stay out here. I don’t have to worry about a label not doing enough with a record, or whether or not I should have fucked with those people in the first place. It’s on me, and I can do what I want.”