14 Dec 2015

The California Honeydrops: The River's Invitation

The California Honeydrops: The River's Invitation

The California Honeydrops are about to release a fabulous, feel-good, fun-fest album of joyous musical partying. If you wanna dance, sing, groove and do some serious smiling - this is one you are going to have to buy. Every track absolutely insists there is no hiding place for wallflowers.

The Honeydrops have a wonderful musical back story which gives us all hope. Starting out busking on the streets of Oakland, they absorbed musical and vocal influences from the Californian club circuit, mainstream soul and jazz singers, funk, soul, blues roots and rhythms and slowly found themselves occupying that much coveted place called Original - with a style that is as vibrant and energetic as it is creative. Subsequently, having done their time and learned their chops and with several tours under their belt and supporting roles with BB, Buddy Guy, Alan Toussaint and Dr John they have now produced their fifth album 'A River's Invitation'. It illustrates, with some panache, that they have lost nothing of their brilliant street vibe on their musical journey.

The opening title track, 'A River's Invitation' leaves you in no doubt as to what's in store. If you listen to this in decent stereo then two things happen. Firstly you are grabbed by the brilliant balance, production and inventiveness of some really complex arrangements – there is a part for everyone and everyone plays a part, coming at you from all sides - and then, for a moment you wonder whether Sam Cooke had popped in a session. Central to the whole album is the voice of the band founder, Lech Wierzynski (yep, he's Polish but flushed through with southern drawl) which just oozes that clean and pure soul influence. It's all there from Memphis soul to eighties funk. He is also a professional trumpeter and the swinging brass influenced arrangements on a number of tracks are central to the feel-good nature of the album.

There are some really beautifully arranged, subtle and interesting keys on the album, clever backing vocal fills and even the melodica gets to star. As if to highlight this band's terrific range, I can point you to three consecutive stand-out tracks: 'Cry Baby Blues' and 'Jolie' followed by 'Crazy Girls' where they manage effortlessly to move from cool blues via an up-tempo reggae beat to an almost fever pitch, brass led gospel swing. Wow – you would have to be tied up not to leap up and throw some shapes to that lot....!

This a great sound blast of an album, difficult to resist its stomping charm, difficult not to admire its musicianship and above all, difficult not to wave your arms and shake your booty. Out soon, go get.