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Golden Tunes

The California Honeydrops bring their signature sweetness to the stage.

keith berson

The band with Ben Malament on the washboard.

IT’S HARD TO pin down the California Honeydrops’ sound; it’s got a bit of jazz, soul and funk, as well as some West Coast R&B. Since their humble beginnings, the California Honeydrops have transformed themselves from a street-busking jug band into an internationally touring juggernaut. With its fourth full-length album, A River’s Invitation, the band continues to build upon groove, melody and the close connection that grows between musicians who’ve played such diverse venues and styles together. We had a chance to find out a bit more from Honeydrop Ben Malament, whose band duties rotate between tub bass, jug, washboard and drums. The California Honeydrops will be playing at San Rafael’s Terrapin Crossroads on March 5. cahoneydrops.com

You’re going to be touring with Bonnie Raitt this spring; what are some other career fantasies that have come true? That’s right! Crazy, huh? We are very honored to be on Bonnie Raitt’s upcoming tour. A few years back, opening for Dr. John at Tipitina’s, in New Orleans, during Jazz Fest, was a personal career high for me. That whole combination was out of sight. Dr. John was also a really great hang backstage, too. Definite musical dream coming alive.

What excites you the most about your newest album, A River’s Invitation? I really think it’s our best album yet. I love the way it sounds and how we were able to stay relaxed and play the songs naturally for the record with each other. It’s pretty raw, not many overdubs, a lot of live takes, vocals on one mic. It’s sweet, and for such a live, high-energy performance band, I think we did a great job playing for the album, not just throwing our usual party, yet keeping that same fun spirit. And you have to hear it on vinyl. Delicious!

The illustrations for your album covers are very distinctive; can you tell us more about them? Our own Lech actually illustrated our first album, Soul Tub! I love it. The rest of the covers have been commissioned to local artists whom we know and who have some connection to our music. They are all quite different, like the albums.

What are your favorite venues to play in the Bay Area? The New Parish has always been a cool home base for us in Oakland. Playing two sold-out nights at the Fillmore in San Francisco was awesome — there is serious historic energy bouncing off those walls. And we get to play Terrapin Crossroads for the first time. Looking forward to checking that place out for sure.

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