“It’s funny” said front man, accoustic guitaris and songwriter Daniel Smith, “my earliest musical memories are driving to town in Galax with my family all singing hymns. My daddy was a banjo player and gospel music singer and it was my grandma who actually taught me to play. She played Maybelle Carter style guitar and I remember her drawing out the grid, showing me the fingering and chord progressions when I was real young. “
He took some time off from bluegrass and gospel to explore country and rock and roll, and brought that experience back with him when the band was formed. Their brand of bluegrass fusion shows the heavy influence of Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley.
Banjo player Brian Swenk came to Big Daddy with the same influences but from a completely different direction. “My dad was a rock and roll musician so, for me, playing bluegrass was my way of rebelling!” Brian cites as teachers and mentors Snuffy Smith and Steve Lewis.
Big Daddy Love had only been playing together for a year, and had just released their freshman effort To the Mountain when they won the Under the Radar competition here last year. “We’re just finishing up our second release now, Let it Grow, which should be out in September” said Ashley Sutton “and I think we’re really just starting to hit our groove.”
It was clear to me that the crowd agreed. While not a traditional bluegrass band, clearly, the foundation they all share in that style combined with strong vocals and musicianship, great songwriting, and a relaxed and engaging stage presence really augment the fundamentals they all learned as kids.
Produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities this series was conceived and is being hosted by Jon Lohman, to showcase the finest in regional musical styles including bluegrass, old time, mountain gospel and blues.
In a suprisingly accessible and intimate setting, Festers are being treated to discussions and workshop style performances from artists including Sam Bush, Nat Reese, The Dirk Powell Band, Larry Keel and Jorma Kaukonen.
This morning we got to see The Carolina Chocolate Drops. They took questions from the audience, explained the history of their musical progression and the influences on their craft by old time musicians like Etta Baker and Joe Thompson.
We’ll check back in with the FolkLife Porch as often as we can this weekend. What an amazing opportunity to interact with some amazing musicians.