THE CALIFORNIA HONEYDROPS; Soft Spot (Tubtone Records)

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For the last few months or so THE CALIFORNIA HONEYDROPS have been promising us a new album. That promise came via several “taster” singles – notably the sweet and lovely ‘Nothing At All’ and the feisty, brassy ‘In Your Arms’. Both soulful, those tunes represented very different flavours within the genre. The former boasted the current, popular retrophile sound – a gentle ballad with a frail falsetto lead supported by classic harmonies; the latter a proper Southern soul outing redolent of the great days of Stax. And that sort of sums up where the Honeydrops are coming from and what this new ‘Soft Spot’ album is all about. The concise 12 tracker is  a real soul gumbo – something for everybody – classic Uptown soul,  Bay Area R&B, funk, Southern soul, Delta blues, New Orleans second line and more.

So, there’s more sweet soul on ‘Honey and Butter’; the flavours are more classically 60s “Uptown” on the very lovely ‘Gonna Be Alright’ and ‘Tumblin’’; ‘Li’l Bit Of Love draws its inspiration from the blues; there’s a frantic funk undertow and wild, jazzy horns on both parts of ‘I Miss You’; a sousaphone (I think) adds colour to the slow funk of ‘Takin’ My Time’ while the LP’s  title track is hybrid of Southern soul and New Orleans piano blues. Then there’s the real left fielder – a touch of New Orleans whimsy via the instrumental ‘The Unicorn’.

All that and more is delivered with real enthusiasm and energy betraying the band’s roots as buskers on the Oakland subway some 14 or 15 years ago. The band’s frontman vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Lech Wierzynski tells us  that ‘Soft Spot ‘is all about love and good loving and you can hear that joyous love in every track. The band clearly has a great time in making this record and a good time is guaranteed for all who listen.

(BB) 4/5