Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

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. 74/100 Mark Kano— Walking On Broadway  It’s been more than 10 years since Athenaeum released Radiance to great critical and commercial success and another seven years since the band’s last release, so where has front man Mark Kano ( been all this time? He’s tracked material for film and television, but it’s not until now that he’s released his debut solo album Walking On Broadway. Fans of Athenaeum will be pleased to know that there’s not an especially severe divergence between the music he made then and now, as his rich baritone is still out at the forefront of his heartfelt ballads and no-nonsense rockers. It’s deeply rooted in the late ’90s pop-rock scene, when the brand maintained some semblance of sincerity over self-indulgence. It’s inevitable that one or more of these songs will find their way into a prime-time drama or MTV documentary, however. The formula behind them is just too conducive. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, though. They’re all built on solid hooks and fantastic instrumental melodies and that’s just usually how it shakes out. If there’s one knock against Walking On Broadway, it is the album’s brevity. At a mere eight tracks in length, it’s longer a typical EP but shorter than the desirable length of an LP. With nearly eight full years to create new material, you can only wonder why Kano didn’t come back with a more robust offering. 70/100