The California Honeydrops formed in 2007 playing in the BART subway stations around Oakland. The group has an easy-going jazz and R&B style that mixes with the occasional gospel vocal styling to create an easygoing vibe that you can’t help but tap your foot to.
Made up of accomplished Jazz musicians, it shows in the arrangements and instrumental stylings. The songs combine a New Orleans style of swing jazz with the smooth singing of R&B, occasionally straying into light blues territory. The result is a batch of songs that are sugary sweet and very easy on the ears.
Songs like the demure “All Day, All Night” play up to the band’s strengths: strong instrumental accompaniments alongside some silky smooth vocals, all wrapped up in an upbeat tempo and beautiful background singing.
Lead singer Lech Wierzynski has a smooth, strong voice that shines on every song, and when he merges with the gospel chorus behind him, like in the lamenting “Just Another Day”, the results are powerful. However, the band wisely uses their background singers sparingly, letting Wierzynski’s powerful voice take center stage for the majority of the album. The singer switches from a blues-styled croon to blissful R&B with incredible ease, and his casual approach sets the tone for the entire album.
The songs on Like You Mean It shift between blues, R&B and gospel almost effortlessly. The band’s amazingly varied list of instruments means they have the personnel to handle switching between a New Orleans-type jazz song like “Just Because” (complete with some nifty sax work) to blues numbers like “Other Shore”, giving the album a sampler-platter feeling in the best possible way. For all the variety, every song feels deliberate and thought out. There is no head-spinning changes of direction, instead each new style is casually introduced for the band to take up and run with.
Thanks to the consistently excellent vocals and strong instrumental chops, the songs that make up Like You Mean It just feel fun. They sound classic without feeling boring, genuine without coming up cheesy. This album sounds like one the group had a blast cutting, and their enjoyment is infectious.
Like You Mean It is one of those albums that doesn’t immediately demand attention, but its free flow and easygoing nature makes it a treat to come back to again and again. A perfect collection of songs to throw on while you grill out in the summer, or when you are entertaining friends with impossibly different musical tastes. Like You Mean It is a crowd-pleaser in all the right ways.