The California Honeydrops
Critics, deejays, and fellow artists raved about the tradition-grounded yet remarkably original music on Soul Tub!, the California Honeydrops' 2008 debut CD. Audiences who've been lucky enough to experience the Oakland-based band's joyous party sounds in person - on the streets and in the subways of Oakland and at such clubs as Yoshi's Oakland, the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, the Piano Bar in Hollywood, and Cozy's in Sherman Oaks, as well as during three tours of Europe - can't seem to get enough of this one-of-a-kind combo and keep coming back for more.
Spreadin' Honey, the band's eagerly awaited sophomore release, draws on many influences -- New Orleans R&B, old-school soul, old-time Piedmont blues, zydeco, swamp pop, gospel, and both traditional and modern jazz - blended together even more cohesively than they were on its predecessor. Leader Lech Wierzynski, an amazingly pliant, deeply soulful singer who doubles on guitar and trumpet, wrote 11 of the 13 selections. His friend Yanos Lustig composed the soul-blues ballad "Let It Go." The disc's only "cover" is of Johnny Adams' classic "Hell Yes, I Cheated."
Born in Warsaw, Poland, and raised in Chicago and Washington, D.C., Wierzynski studied at Oberlin College with onetime Ray Charles trumpeter Marcus Belgrave (whose influence can be felt in "Cryin' Blues," the only instrumental on Spreadin' Honey). Wierzynski did gigs with Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, and Jackie Payne prior to forming the California Honeydrops three years ago with his old Oberlin friends Benjamin Malament and Nansamba Ssensalo. (Illness forced Ssensalo's retirement from the group in 2009.) Joining Wierzynski and Malament, who plays drums, tub bass, and percussion, in the current combo are pianist-organist Christopher Burns, saxophonist-clarinetist Johnny Bones, and bassist Seth Ford-Young. All, except Burns, contribute to the churchy vocal harmonies on many selections.
While scholars might pick out influences - say, the Blind Boy Fuller chord progression on "It Ain't Hard to Tell," the Sister Rosetta Tharpe-like guitar solo on "Thank You," or the Louis Armstrong cadenza on the title track - the most important thing about Spreadin' Honey is the infectious party atmosphere that oozes out of every track.
"Our mission," Wierzynski says, "is to get the whole crowd participating and singing along, and we want them partying. It's about feeling good - everybody together."
"This is funky, good-time music from the roots of New Orleans to the dance floors of today. It's irresistible. It's timeless." - Angela Strehli
"A breath of fresh air." - Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters)
"Good timin' music par excellence…" - Norman Darwen, Blues & Rhythm - The Gospel Truth magazine (Leeds, UK)
"…the most refreshing act to roll down the blues highway in some time. Few groups before them have melded so many strains of African American music into such a seamless whole." --Lee Hildebrand, Living Blues magazine (University, Mississippi)