Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (from the album Dance Songs for Hard Times available on Family Owned Records) (by Brian Rock)
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band finds rhythm for their Blues on their second album, Dance Songs for Hard Times. Chock full of explosive, up-tempo Delta and Chicago Blues, the album is a karate chop to the last year of covid-induced malaise. For a three-piece band (where one member plays only the washboard) this group delivers a big damn sound. Band leader Reverend Peyton manages to fingerpick a bass line while simultaneously riffing off ‘in your face’ guitar leads. But the biggest part of this band might just be Reverend Peyton’s voice. Part Howlin’ Wolf, part Little Walter, and part angry grizzly bear, he belts out Blues songs like a chainsaw wielding mountain moonshiner fending off federal ATF agents. With no session musicians or post production enhancements, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band creates a rough around the edges, larger than life Voodoo Blues opus that plays like the soundtrack to the rumpus scene in Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.
“Ways and Means” opens the festivities with ZZ Top-inspired guitar riffs while Reverend Peyton hums like a shaman in a trance state. Finally breaking through in words, Peyton sings ‘I got all the shine I just ain’t got the sheen’. Pounding drums add gusto to this working man anthem that proves the old adage, ‘it’s not what you got, it’s the way that you use it’. Without a large bank account, Peyton can still boast, ‘my knife is sharp, my guitar’s never flat… king of the laundromat’.
“Rattle Can” combines slide guitar with high octane Rockabilly to celebrate the joys of shaking things up. “Too Cool to Dance” continues the Rockabilly feel as it delivers the central message of the album. After being cooped up for a year, Rev. Peyton urges people to seize the day and enjoy the moment; or as he puts it, ‘we may not get another chance. Please don’t tell me you’re too cool to dance’. Playing an old 1954 Supro Dual Tone electric guitar and singing straight from the heart, Peyton is so unconcerned with being cool, that he achieves James Dean level coolness.
The Big Damn Band keeps the Blues party rolling with “Sad Songs”, “Crime to Be Poor”, “’Til We Die”, and “Nothing’s Easy but You and Me”. In each case the upbeat music belies lyrics of struggling to get by. But as in all good Blues, its power lies in its ability to confront life’s hardships with bravado. If you can face it, you can beat it.
The band adds nuance, without losing intensity, to “I’ll Pick You Up”, which can only be described as Talking Heads meets Muddy Waters. They add touches of Gospel to “Come Down Angels”. They even manage to shift out of high gear for three minutes on the Piedmont Blues of “Dirty Hustlin’.”
These are indeed hard times we are living through. We can either try to hide from them or we can face them. Dance Songs for Hard Times encourages us to do the latter. Not shying away from the realities of the struggle, it gives a forceful assertion that we will survive; and not just survive, but dance in triumph. By embracing the Blues, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band gives us a big damn dose of hope. (by Brian Rock)
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