After a decade together The California Honeydrops, on this double-album, define themselves. And that definition is, depending on the song, anything they want to be. Bringing their personality of freewheeling performances to the studio, the Bay-Area quintet welcomes a slew of guests, including touring mate Bonnie Raitt, and emerge with a two-disc collection that succinctly and spectacularly spans genre and generation.
Opening on the title track with the five Drops in mid-step, Raitt joins the flow naturally, teaming for a perfect-match vocal duet. All through disc one, the band slides effortlessly, from an irrepressible swing on “Coming Around” to the second-line parade of “Cry for Me.” Styles are turned pliable shapes of smooth falsetto, rocksteady reggae, and Basin Street blues, molded any which way on the golden-throated tones of guitarist, trumpeter, and singer Lech Wierzynski. Sharpened horns accentuate the James Brown funk of “Hold It Down,” while percussion and organ trade riffs on the Philly soul of “Live Learn” echoing a Daryl Hall-heyday.
Disc two rides on the threadline of the record’s concept, starting with the gospel-lite of “Only Home I’ve Ever Known,” then to throwback blues targeting the modern life in “Silicon World.” Wierzynski is the undeniable focal point of album, writing, arranging and producing the 16 tracks, but this is a loaded ensemble. Be it the sax of Johnny Bones or the tackle-box drumming of Ben Malament, handling every tempo and turn with the right answer, the collective identity of the Honeydrops is as unified as it is versatile; a sky full of stars.
There’s clap-along infection on “Tell Me (I Wanna Know)” and the impromptu jamming of “Good Good Lovin’” that stave off last call a little longer. There’s the wobble of “Things We Used To Do,” and a rock-a-bye penultimate goodnight on “In My Baby’s Arms.” Lastly, there is “Starr Child,” a rambling, rumbling closer that marches us all out the door, into the world, on our way back home.
What was always a memorable live experience has been distilled, shaken up, and uncorked on Call It Home Vol 1 & 2. This is ground zero and lift-off, an introduction and summary of so much that’s possible in the universe of this this skillful group. Call it a masterpiece from The California Honeydrops.