Every band or artist has an influence. Sometimes that influence manifests itself as a plagiaristic sledgehammer: for great examples, check out melodic rock bands BB Steal and Tower City for homages to Def Leppard, or better still, check out Hockey Night for an almost note-for-note recreation of Pavement. When there are so many bands whom could be accused of imitation (whether intentional or not), it’s always good to find an artist who doesn’t just flatly imitate their idols.
Toronto based musician Dom De Luca cites both Steve Earle and Townes Van Zant as his biggest influences, yet his sophomore album, ‘A Bell I Gotta Ring’ doesn’t sound hugely like either artist. They may have influenced him, but he’s been smart enough to take that influence and twist it into something of his own.
‘Be Back Soon’ presents De Luca at his best. The acoustic shuffle, backed by brushed drums and twangy acoustic lead moments is extremely inviting. Like many singer-songwriters, De Luca’s vocal style takes a little time to tune into, but the end result is decent. Similarly, ‘So Caught Up In You’ delivers something equally uncomplicated, capturing De Luca and Phil Brown in an acoustic duet. During this number, De Luca’s distinctive warble works well in harmony with Brown’s rather more ordinary vocal style. The solo acoustic number ‘Love, I Feel It Spreading In Me’ features the welcome sound of a mandolin and pleasing guitar picking among it’s sparseness, while the ache in De Luca’s vocal style could be compared to John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting. De Luca is so keen here to capture the feeling in his performance that no effort seems to have been made to fix any off-key moments (of which this album has more than a few), but the song doesn’t suffer for that.
Those looking for upbeat acoustic-based pop may find enjoyment from ‘Brother, Brother’ and ‘Chin Up, Babe’. ‘Brother, Brother’ features De Luca accompanied in a full band arrangement; the drum style is unobtrusive and De Luca sounds at his most confident in this setting. ‘Chin Up, Babe’ has a sunny vibe, with Dom’s acoustic work combined with a simple piano riff. The drums are replaced with congas, and despite an uncomplicated arrangement, the end result seems to work well – it’s not a great leap of the imagination to picture a re-worked version of this on the soundtrack of a family movie. ‘Lovin’ You So’ presents the album with a curve-ball. De Luca steps aside from acoustic folk-pop and delivers a track that has a strong reggae bias. While the end result is summery, De Luca’s delivery combined with the pop-reggae reminds me a little too much of Paulo Nutini – and that’s not so good.
‘I Heard You Were Lonely’ steps things up a little, delivering a number in the rock pop field. There are moments within this song where De Luca’s band really pulls together – drummer Walter Maclean turns in some great fills and seemingly relishes the rare opportunity to cut loose. Over De Luca’s jangle-pop guitar lines, Phil Brown offers spacious electric lead, leading to something which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Ron Sexsmith’s back catalogue. It’s here that De Luca’s heavily affected lead vocal resembles Sexsmith the most too – wandering drastically off-key at various points toward the song’s end.
‘A Bell I Gotta Ring’ is an album with a heartfelt approach. While there are times where his vocal delivery can be very hard to listen to, the album features a couple of clear stand out tracks. It’s possible the rest of his material sounds better in an intimate live setting.
Visit Dom at his MySpace page here.