The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
Yazoo Record, 2015
The anticipation of a new album from one of my favorite bands can be equal parts elation and dread. Inevitable questions like, “Is it going to be as good as the last one? What if it sucks? Did they change their sound? Will it be an uninspired re-hash of their previous work?” all come to the forefront of my mind until that glorious moment when I press play for the first time. Listening to Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s new album quickly put any semblance of apprehension I had to rest. So Delicious succeeds in delivering blue-collar blues full of homespun values like family, hard work, and community through slashing slide riffs, dirty grooves and the gruff, commanding vocals of Reverend Peyton himself.
The primal thumping of Ben “Bird Dog” Bussell’s drumming and Peyton’s gritty, rhythmic guitar work set the tone for the album in the first few measures of the opening track, “Let’s Jump a Train.” It’s easy to envision Peyton as a populist politician on a whistle stop tour, spreading the band’s messages of freedom and self-sufficiency to the masses, but the heart of the song is the band’s lust for life. The only way they know how to satisfy their experiential cravings is to bring their music to the people by any means necessary and explore the world with melodious and amorous intentions.
The music industry is rife with an image-above-substance mentality that can leave any audience jaded, but the simple earnestness of “Pot Roast and Kisses” demonstrates that good people do actually fall in love and enjoy taking care of each other. Peyton wrote this song for his wife (and washboard player in the band), Breezy, after enjoying one of her home cooked meals. The line, “I smell something sweet cookin’ up in the oven,” serves once again as proof that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
In “Dirt,” Reverend Peyton exalts the virtues of physical labor, while chastising the elitism of those who profit from the grubwork of others. Set to a country-stomp beat, this song for the everyman reminds us that the filth of corporate exploitation can’t be removed with a little bit of Lava soap.
The album segues into a more jovial mood with “Raise a Little Hell,” as Peyton’s booming voice and ferocious slide lines complement the rhythm section’s raucous, march-like pounding. The Raise a Little Hell Children’s Choir makes a guest appearance on this track, bolstering the sense that the “Whole Damn Famnity” is coming to your town, so split some hickory logs and fire up the barbeque.
Is the pursuit of wealth worth sacrificing our humanity? Why does the mass media’s only purpose seem to be appealing to and manipulating the lowest common denominator? Why do vast segments of the population suckle pre-packaged pop drivel from the teat of the commercial music industry? “Scream at the Night” addresses some of the quintessential questions of modern American society in classic troubadour fashion:
“We are running to money
But that tailored suit
And a pile of loot
Gives you a heart attack
And a long commute.”
Or even better:
“I’m getting too sick
Of the music
The pop charts
Are pop tarts
With empty songs
With no heart.”
“Hell Naw” and “Picking Paw Paws” encapsulate two different approaches to country-blues. Peyton calls bullshit on life’s annoyances with a confident strut in “Hell Naw” while a more laid-back stroll is employed on “Picking Paw Paws.” Some folks might call a song about “Indiana bananas” a bit quaint or even hokey, but at it’s core it’s a romantic song about a couple sharing a rural existence. Breezy and Peyton are genuine people who know how to live off the land, whether it’s gathering native fruits and berries from the forest or fishing in a stream. Like Peyton says in “We Live Dangerous”: “We can catch our own.”
You could make the mistake of thinking “We Live Dangerous” was a North Mississippi Allstars song before Peyton’s growling chant comes in. There’s a strong backwoods boogie flavor to this tune as the washboard and drums work together to form the bedrock of a pulsing meter sure to get the crowd up and cuttin’ the pigeon wing. Peyton mixes fretted licks with deft slide riffs, often following his own vocal melody and employing call and response phrasing. Breezy even gets in on the call and response party towards the end of the song by echoing Peyton’s “We live danger” call and then joining him on the “We live dangerous” resolution.
People can often fall prey to the mystique of highly proficient musicians and come to the faulty conclusion that they were just “born with talent.” Peyton dispels this myth in “Front Porch Trained,” by explaining that it was his hard work and dedication that allowed him to develop his picking prowess, not some ethereal gift or “deal with the devil.” It also serves as a metaphor for success in life; you’ll never get anywhere sitting around waiting for prosperity to materialize. If you want to get good at guitar, then you had better get in the woodshed and start practicing every day until the sun goes down and your fingers bleed. I’m willing to wager that sloth is the good Reverend’s most detested deadly sin.
The table is set for the final song on the album via a short acoustic number featuring Reverend Peyton called “You’re Not Rich.” The listener is reminded once again of the folly of valuing material affluence above having people you love to share your life with. The line, “Money can be fun to spend, but it can’t buy you a friend” is reminiscent of Son House’s timeless “Grinnin’ in Your Face.” Yes sir, a true friend is hard to find.
The album ends with the feel good “Music and Friends.” With its steady rolling cadence and gregarious lyrics, it has all the makings of a set closing sing-a-long. The Big Damn Band brings in the Brown County All-Star Choir in to help hammer the song’s point home. It feels like a big bear hug from the Reverend himself and it cements the fact that he is just a salt of the earth man from Brown County, Indiana trying to share his music with the world. This is not an album to enjoy with Premier Cru Bordeaux and imported Brie; the proper accoutrements are clearly corn bread and rye whiskey. Take a nibble and a swaller as you treat yourself to a tasty blend of country-fried blues that’s so delicious!
Best Song- “We Live Dangerous”
Honorable Mention- “Let’s Jump a Train”
The album is available for pre-order on the band’s website, bigdamnband.com and will be released worldwide on February 17, 2015.
Check out our previous feature on The Revered Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Lumberjack Blues.