Big Daddy Love‘s new disc, To The Mountain, has elements of mountain music (namely bluegrass). Brian Swenk’s banjo is a clear giveaway, especially on the twangy, fast-paced “Good Morning Sunshine.” But there’s also plenty of rock swagger. Matteo Recchio shreds, Kelly Linville lays into his drumkit and Daniel Justin Smith’s vocals have a pleasantly gritty Gregg Allman quality.
“Spirit is a Window” is a highlight on this 13-track collection. That particular slowburner drips soul, its dueling keys parts (thanks to David McCracken on Hammond B3 and producer Aaron Price on piano) satisfyingly 70s and its melody line equal parts grungy and sweet.
Though the group (which elusively lists its locale as “the Mountains of North Carolina”) skillfully executes its slow songs, the sheer force with which Big Daddy Love kicks off rockers like “Unsung” and “Peace of Mind” suggests that this is where these musicians hit their stride. “Peace of Mind,” with its choice harmonica (Brent Buckner) and chunky bass line (Ashley Sutton) also demonstrates jam band leanings, but a decidedly old-timey intro and the inclusion of mountain instruments — not to mention a three minute play time — anchor the track in no-nonsense roots rock territory.
From start to finish, To The Mountain is a captivating album that alludes to a dynamic live show. If the musicians dabble in a variety of styles it’s only because, well, they can. And certain elements — a tightly-coiled energy always threatening to explode within each song, a choice group of collaborators, flawless musicianship and Smith’s compelling vocals — provide a palpable thread throughout.
Big Daddy Love holds its Asheville CD release on Saturday, April 10 at Westville Pub. The 9:30 p.m. show is also a book-drive for Elida’s Children Home. The band will have boxes to collect donations of books for the school. $5, 225-9782 for info.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter