Bluegrass banjo, rock guitar commune in Big Daddy Love
When: 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday
Where: Ancient Mariner, 962 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs
Tickets: $6-$10; 685-5503, amusiccompanyinc.com
Americana music is trending.
At least, Brian Swenk hopes so. He’s the banjo player for the quintet Big Daddy Love, an Appalachian rock band from North Carolina. They played at MeadowGrass Music Festival at La Foret Conference and Retreat Center last year, and will be at the Ancient Mariner on Friday.
Big Daddy Love got together in 2009, and although they’ve been through so many manifestations of the band that there isn’t one original member left, Swenk says they’ve jelled in the new lineup that formed in April. Though they continue to play all the old tunes at shows, their new stuff differs in one way, Swenk says. Daniel Smith, who was the band’s original singer and songwriter, left in April to spend more time with his family. Scott Moss took over, and his subject matter explores new territory.
“It’s more about the gritty side of life, the raw side,” Swenk says. “A lot of our songs were about mountains, rivers or sunshine. People love positive stuff. Scott writes more about family struggles with farms and the Nashville flood, this big flood several years ago. The audience loves it. He’s got such a good voice, and he’s so genuine.”
Go to a show, and you won’t just get a bluegrass band. You’ll also hear some sizzling rock ‘n’ roll blues.
“Each year for the past three years, I have booked a band that was totally unknown to anyone in Colorado Springs,” says Steve Harris, director of the MeadowGrass Music Festival.
“And each year that band sold the most merchandise: Elephant Revival in 2010, Yarn in 2011 and Big Daddy Love in 2012. (Big Daddy Love) brought more energy to their performance than most of the bands we’ve hosted (and most of our bands have been energetic).”
Swenk says they jokingly describe their sound as “if the Allman Brothers had a banjo player, or if Led Zeppelin grew up on a dairy farm in the Appalachian mountains.” Of their latest album, “Let it Grow,” Acoustic Music website wrote: “An interesting blend of folk grass, progressive bluegrass, country, rock ‘n’ roll and hillbilly plaint, (it) reminds strongly of the ’60s and ’70S, when psychedelia and experimentation were entering the roots music genre quite handily.”
In one minute, Moss’ country voice is ambling along like a stroll on a sunny day, with Swenk’s banjo calmly plucking along. In the next, the electric guitar of Joseph Recchio kicks in, turning it from downhome porch music to rock concert.
Swenk had banjos and bluegrass on his mind as he watched the Grammy Awards earlier this year. Mumford and Sons, an English folk rock band with a banjo player, won Album of the Year for “Babel.” The Avett Brothers, another indie roots rock band with a banjo in the mix, was nominated in the Americana category.
Clearly, something is afoot. Swenk thinks the popularity of electronic and DJ-heavy music is dwindling, while stringed, instrument-heavy bands and their rootsy rock and bluegrass-flavored music is catching on. Swenk and his band hope to capitalize on the growing movement.
Jennifer Mulson may be reached at 636-0270.