Big Daddy Love
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Big Daddy Love

Sparta, North Carolina, United States

Sparta, North Carolina, United States
Band Americana Bluegrass


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"Town Pump"

Big Daddy Love can cross over from acoustic quartet to a high-energy rock band, while making a seamless transition that showcases the band's diverse styles. The band was formed in 2006 in the North Carolina Foothills and recently released their debut album, "Circle Around the Sun."

With four singers and two songwriters, the band captures the listener with both sugary harmonies and gritty guitar lines that emerge at times on the album.

Big Daddy Love includes Dustin Transou on mandolin and vocals; Derek Reece on vocals, bass, electric guitar, and harmonica; Dan Smith on vocals and guitars; Benjamin Kallum on banjo, bass, and vocals; and Steve Nalley on drums and percussion.

Smith recently spoke with the Black Mountain News about his band's music and what listeners can expect at their performance at the Town Pump on Friday.

Q:Your debut album has elements of traditional bluegrass and more contemporary music. How did the band come to develop this sound?
Smith: It comes from the mixed backgrounds and interests of the band members. The original core of the band was friends for eight or nine years before we actually formed the band. We had a tight bond socially and then melded our musical interests together.

Q:Several songs on the album show off the band's tight harmonies. Did that happen organically or did it take a lot of work to get the vocals aligned?
Smith: It's a long process. We sit in a circle with minimal instrumentation and work on getting the voices together. It comes through going over it again and again.

Q: There are serious and more lighthearted songs on the album. How do the songs originate an did the band consciously want to have songs that were different from one another?
Smith: We have two principal songwriters. Myself and our mandolin player wrote most of the album. Our banjo player wrote one of the tracks. We bring our songs to the table to separate ourselves from the songs and decide on them as a group. We wanted to have a good mix that represented us in our debut. Like other bands, we want to make as many albums as we can past our debut. In our first round, we wanted to show the spectrum we can run.

Q:Were you trying to capture what the band sounds like live on your album or have a more polished sound in the studio?
Smith: We had everything but the track order worked out before we went into the studio. The basic form of the album had to be done in the live setting because it would take away from what we are if we didn't do it that way. We did overdubs, but only for vocals and solos. The core of the album is live and had to be that way.

Q: What can people expect at a live show that aren't familiar with your music?
Smith: They can expect a lot of energy and a roller coaster ride of a show. We love what we do and love playing music together. That shows in what we do. We enjoy playing our music for people who enjoy what we do.

For more information about Big Daddy Love, visit - Black Mountain News

"CD Review - Circle Around the Sun"

My favorite track, entitled "Sinner's Anthem," is a quirky yet honest pining song with a lot of attitude. "And now thriteen women wanna be my wife, but fifteen others done threat'n my life. But 'ol Jim Bean's still got my back..." Gotta love some good Southern rock mixed with bluegrass - one of my favorite hybrids of the North Carolina foothills. This album isn't for background music; it's for playing and listening to. Don't miss out on their smart and witty lyrics. Derek Reece, Dan Smith, Dustin Transou, Ben Kallam and Steve Nalley really put it all into this album full of guitar picking, devil fighting and party praising.

Anyone can appreciate the messages of the album track by track; there isn't really a dull song that you press "skip" to get through once you've heard them all. The production of the album isn't as rough and messy as most do-it-yourself records these days - and they didn't have a label to distribute it all for them. These guys get mucho kudos for their layering of guitars (acoustic and electric), bass, mandolin, harmonicas, and banjos that bring out the perfect sound for anyone's ears. While they'll be playing all over the Carolinas this summer, the closest set will take place at the Garage ( with Old Stone Revue ( in Winston-Salem on Friday, Sept. 5. Buy the album online at - YES!Weekly

"Asheville Citizen-Times"

To view article:

Big Daddy Love brings its eclectic groove to Westville Pub

With a revamped lineup and a batch of new songs, Big Daddy Love is feeling “like every piece of the puzzle has been put in,” said banjo player Brian Swenk. “We have five people who believe in every single note we play.”

Formed in 2006, the Americana band shifted personnel last summer, which ended up bringing founder Daniel Smith together with hometown friends Swenk and guitarist Joey Recchio. All three grew up north of Boone in the small mountain town of Sparta before moving on to separate musical careers.

Now in their early 30s, the chance to play together lured Swenk back out on the road and Recchio away from a successful blues band.

“It's kind of crazy we all came back together,” Swenk said. “We wouldn't do it unless the music was perfect to us. We each have thousands of shows under our belt. We're talking from experience when we say, ‘This is it.'”

Bass player Ashley Sutton and drummer Kelly Linville round out the group, which blends bluegrass and roots rock into an upbeat groove.

The quintet plans to release an album in the spring and in the meantime is crisscrossing the state from Elkin to Wilmington to play shows during the next few months. “We really feel like we have it all together,” Swenk said. “We're giving away demo CDs. We want this music in people's hands.”

Swenk talked to Take5 from his home in Asheville before Saturday's show at the Westville Pub.

Question: How do you describe the band's sound?

Answer: We really come from bluegrass roots, so we have that element. But we also grew up listening to the Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead. We're trying to have the tightness of bluegrass but the soul and blues of the early Allman Brothers.

Q: As the banjo player, are you the key bluegrass influence?

A: I have the most bluegrass background, so that's kind of my territory. I've spent the past decade playing in a five-piece bluegrass band. But I am now playing an electric banjo — my acoustic couldn't compete.

Q: What music are you listening to now that you like?

A: We really love the new Black Crowes album. It's rootsy, but they still have that blues-based soul and rock sound. We are really close to that.

Q: What can fans expect at the Westville show?

A: A lot of new stuff. Daniel is such an amazing songwriter. He and Joey are doing co-writes and coming up with song after song. We all agree this new stuff will be the best we've ever recorded. We'll do some older songs, but we're concentrating on the new.

Q: What's the future plan for the band?

A: We're going to record this winter on Little King Records, the company that got Acoustic Syndicate going. We want to record in Asheville, so we're looking into studios. We'll be at the French Broad River Festival and looking to do a CD release in late March. Our goal is to release it on the spring equinox.

Michael Flynn writes about entertainment for take5. E-mail - Michael Flynn

"Bootleg Magazine"

Big Daddy Love returns to Wilmington this December, bringing a live energy show that mixes bluegrass, rock and roll and alt-country. The band has only been together for a few years but has kept busy by growing quickly - adding new musicians to the fold. They’ve remained busy on and off the road. Their new album, Circle Around the Sun, is a vibrant mix of rural culture and soul, traversing between acoustic numbers to rollicking rock music.

What’s the last year been like for Big Daddy Love?

Busy. With the debut cd release in April, we have been busy traveling promoting the new album. This year we’ve been honored to play such venues as the House of Blues (N. Myrtle Beach, SC), The Visulite Theater (Charlotte, NC) and The
Soapbox (Wilmington, NC). All of the traveling has permitted extra time for strengthening our bond which definitely reflects in our live shows.

Tell us about that first show at the Wisteria Festival in Castle Hayne.

The band’s first gig at the Wisteria Festival in Castle Hayne was an experience to say the least. Being thrown into such an accomplished lineup for our first show was intimidating yet an honor. We are grateful to Wisteria Festival promoter and dear friend, Tucker Hill, for including us. We played a somewhat nervous set as we attempted to bring the basement to the stage for the first time. Drawing from the few originals we had, our improv jams, and some Dead and Zeppelin covers, we managed a decent set.

The band continues to evolve as additional musicians come on board. Is there something you’d add to broaden the scope of the band’s acoustic roots sound?

We’re content with the instrumentation for now. However,
we do enjoy the varied dynamics of guest musicians, such as Richard Welsh on dobro/lapsteel and David McCracken (Donna the Buffalo) on B3 organ.

How much of the live show is free-form or improvised during a set? Does it change night to night?

Every night is different. We rarely play a song the same twice. We feel that keeping things loose and not so rehearsed keeps
it exciting for us and our audience.

How much of the band’s jam sessions lead to songs on the album?

Jam sessions are rare these days with our busy schedules. However, Thru the Rain was born in the early days during a Tuesday night jam. Currently, our songs come from individual band members’ original material.

How much gospel influences the music? ‘Circle Around the Sun’ or ‘Its Alright’, even with all the energy, vocally sounds and moves like a gospel number.

Gospel music was a heavy influence on all of us early in life and so it’s bound to surface in our
original material from time to time.

The vocals by Dustin Transou on ‘Family Tree’ and ‘Front to Back’ are hushed and hoarse like Eric Clapton. The singer sounds older than his years. What’s the age range of the band?

Does the band draw a varied crowd age-wise?

The band members’ ages range from late 20s to early 50s. We love the fact that our varied age span is mirrored in our audience.

The band keeps it light and fun, yet with a sense of mystery and starkness. How do you account for creating music that’s polarized?

Having two primary songwriting styles provides a broader musical landscape for the band, which allows each of us more avenues to express our creativity.

How much is the band on the road? Are there routines to keep things fresh or to keep from going a little mad?

For now, we all still have day jobs so we travel only on weekends. Family is top priority for us all and therefore a consideration in our travels.

On the album, how many of the songs are single takes? Live takes?

We had everything but the track order worked out before we went into the studio. The basic form of the album had to be done in the live setting because it would take away from who we are if we didn’t. We did do overdubs, but only for vocals and solos. The core of the album is live and had to be that way.

With the Felice Brothers, Paleface and the Avett Brothers taking roots music further, is the field more competitive or is this genre of music more embracing to one another?

We’ve been fortunate to find a network embracing roots music and we’re thankful to bands like The Avett Brothers for breaking down barriers. - Brian Tucker

"High Country Press"

The five members of Elkin-based Americana band Big Daddy Love all come in together with the galloping drumbeat that kicks off the title track to the band’s debut CD, Circle Around The Sun. With boogie-ready beats, memorable melodies and solid stringband interplay between members, the 15 original tracks emphatically announce a new roots rock band ready to make their mark on the regional music scene.

On Saturday, December 20, Big Daddy Love will return to the High Country for a show at Canyons. The music will begin at 10:00 p.m. and there is no cover charge.

Although they have less than three years officially under their belt as a band, the roots of Big Daddy Love extend back nearly a decade to 1999, when members Daniel J. Smith, Dustin Transou and Derek Reece met on the job at High Meadows Country Club in Alleghany County. Informal jam sessions ensued and the trio of pickers became fast friends.

“I felt a big connection with the other guys and wanted to do something,” said Smith.

However, with Smith and the others involved in other musical projects, years came and went before the group decided to adopt a name and give the band a chance. In early 2006, Smith, Transou and Reece performed their first show as a three-piece rock band at the Wisteria Festival in Castle Hayne, N.C. Before year’s end, the band had played nearly 50 shows and was quickly gaining a reputation as a solid live act.

Although the band’s repertoire consisted mostly of rock songs, the members’ mountain roots began to creep into the band’s sound and more roots-flavored original material emerged. Big Daddy Love soon began injecting an acoustic set into their live shows and eventually, the band’s entire sound shifted away from electric rock. The addition of rock solid drummer Steve Nalley and nontraditional banjo player Benjamin Kallam in 2007 solidified the band’s new sonic direction for good.

Smith describes the band’s sound as leaning toward the “bluegrass and roots music side of life” while “keeping the rock drive behind it.” The sound is at times reminiscent of an array of roots rock acts including polyethnic Cajun slamgrass outfit Leftover Salmon, Nashville-based Americana band Bucktown Kickback, indefinable Austin, Texas band The Gourds and longtime hitmakers the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

In addition to playing dozens of shows throughout their home region, Big Daddy Love has already hit several other notable venues including Charlotte’s Visulite Theatre and the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Smith said that he and his bandmates would like nothing more than to get started on the festival circuit, particularly with a slot at MerleFest.

“The festival season is something we’re very interested in,” said Smith.

For more than a year, Big Daddy Love has been performing in the High Country and is beginning to pick up steam in the area. In addition to their upcoming performance at Canyons, the band will also perform on New Year’s Eve at the Inn at Crestwood, as well as opening for the Lost Ridge Band at Boone Saloon in January.

“It’s actually starting to turn around for us up there,” said Smith.

To hear music by Big Daddy Love, click to
- David Brewer

"The Mountain Times"

Straight from the foothills of North Carolina comes the wickedly good five-piece bluegrass and Americana band Big Daddy Love. The band formed in 1999 when musicians Daniel J. Smith (guitar, vocals), Dustin Transou (mandolin, vocals), and Derek Reece (bass, guitar, vocals) met on the job. They became fast friends both at work and during informal jam sessions, which continued for years to come. Flash-forward to 2007 when the trio added the services of drummer Steve Nalley and banjo player Ben Kallam to the fold.

With Smith and Transou serving as primary songwriters, Big Daddy Love entered the recording studio last year and released its debut album, Circle Around the Sun, in April 2008. The album showcases the band’s tight playing and its unique mesh of alt-country, folk, blues and funk. - Jeff Eason

"From the heart"

Rooted in Appalachia, the music of Big Daddy Love brings more than what you would expect from a North Carolina band


AUGUSTA, GA – As an Americana band from North Carolina, Big Daddy Love has certain elements to their music that define the genre, but, at the same time, a sound that defies categorizing.

“People say they have a tough time describing it, which I think is a huge compliment,” said banjoist Brian Swenk.

While the name Big Daddy Love has been around for a couple of years, the current lineup of Swenk, guitarist Joey Recchio, bassist Ashley Sutton, drummer Kelly Linville and original member, vocalist and guitarist Daniel Smith has only been playing together for six months, coming together last summer.

“We’re kind of a brand-new band but we’ve moved ahead really fast because we have such strong material that we’re working with,” Swenk said. “I think it’s a band of all-stars; everybody in this band just blows me away at how good they are.”

The members of the band, who have played “thousands” of shows in various other projects, have covered the gamut of styles from beach to blues to jazz and, together, these influences merge together to form their indefinable sound, which Swenk said is best described as bluegrass combined with Southern-style rock along the lines of the Allman Brothers and Drive-By Truckers.

“We’re playing so from the heart, that it’s one of those things that we really are just creating this,” he said. “The blues bands and the bluegrass bands that we came from, we’re just kind of re-creating a genre, re-creating our influences. With this, we’re just taking everything we’ve learned and just being as creative as possible and feeling our way through it.”

Swenk also credits Smith and his songwriting skills with helping them stand out.

“His lyrics pretty much deal with his family, the mountains, rivers; it definitely has a spirituality to it and that’s just growing and growing,” he said. “The songwriting is so positive and it feels so good, but it’s so rooted in our region, especially the mountains, it’s where our hearts are. He really draws on that like nothing I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if he could get away from that if he tried, it’s so ingrained in us.”

The band hopes to be able to put out an album every year, and is currently at work on their upcoming release, tentatively titled “To the Mountain,” at Echo Mountain Recording in Asheville, N.C.

“We’re working really hard, we have a great producer, a great studio,” Swenk said. “This album is going to be good. We all are just kind of blown away with how this came together, and the quality of songs. We had to choose from 18 fantastic songs and had to try and get it down to 12, so we’re working as hard as we can on it.”

Bid Daddy Love’s music has had a profound effect on their fan base in their home state, who have formed the Love Bus, a charitable organization that comes together in the name of the band, holding food drives and giving away free CDs with blood donations.

“We really see us being active with that in the future, putting a lot of effort into charities and really promoting the Love Bus thing of helping people out,” Swenk said. “That’s kind of neat for us.”

Swenk hopes to spread that enthusiasm through the Southeast as well.

“Right when I first started playing, somebody came up and she said, ‘This music makes me so happy and I just love it.’ I just laughed and I was like, that is a huge reason why we do this, is for that type of thing right there. It’s getting bigger and we’re really enjoying it.”

Big Daddy Love
Stillwater Tap Room
Friday, February 12
10 p.m.
- Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA

"CD Review - YES!Weekly"

Big Daddy Love— Circle Around the Sun

There’s only so much you can say about the vast majority of roots music. In most instances, its listeners merely grade it a lot like a law professor does students: pass or fail. There are the occasional exceptions, however, and one band from the Foothills of North Carolina casts themselves among them. The core sound of Big Daddy Love ( owes plenty to the roots music of Appalachia, but it’s the abundance of musical accents that breathe life into their debut album Circle Around the Sun. Drawing from swamp boogie, Americana and good, oldfashioned rock, Big Daddy Love has constructed a more progressive electrified-roots sound that appropriate for both sipping whiskey on the front porch and throwing your boots out on the dance floor. The comparison to Little Feat comes immediately to mind, especially considering how the everyman tales written by Daniel Smith and Dustin Transou seem to speak directly to the conscience of its listeners. Lines like “that old brown whiskey done hit me quick/ your cheap perfume done made me sick” on “Sinner’s Anthem” leave you feeling as if you’ve been down that road on more than one occasion. The Hammond B3 organ of Greensboro native David McCracken (Donna the Buffalo) provides an another funky layer on tracks like “Please You” and “Thru the Rain,” while Smith and Derek Reece sizzling electric guitar push the groove even further. There are 15 solid, if not spectacular tracks to be found on Circle Around the Sun, but it’s certainly good enough to make the skip button a distant memory.
- Ryan Snyder

"CD Review - Performer Magazine"

- Southeast Performer Magazine (April 2009)


Circle Around the Sun - 2008

On the air at:
WNCW 88.7 Spindale, NC
WQFS 90.9 Greensboro, NC
WUIN 106.7 The Penguin - Wilmington, NC
WSOE 89.3 Elon, NC
WBRF 98.1 Galax, VA
WTHZ Majic 94.1 - Lexington, NC
WETS 89.5 - Johnson City, TN
WMKY 90.3 - Morehead, KY



BIG DADDY LOVE brings a natural blend of grass, roots and rock to the emerging North Carolina music scene. With fiery vocals, sweet-sugary harmonies, authentic song-craft, and undeniable musicianship, the quintet delivers high-energy performances comprised of their own brand of good-time music. It is the startling power of these live shows that resonate with their audience. Genuine and intensely personal lyrics captivate and connect.

Be captivated. Get connected. Feel the love.