Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band takes classic country blues, fingerstyle picking, and washboard playing to new levels of contemporaneity. Frontman 'The Reverend Peyton' visits Sounds Good to discuss the band's upcoming headlining performance at the Lowertown Arts and Music Festival.
From the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band website:
"Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band has built its reputation the long, slow, hard way. After 12 years of playing as many as 300 shows each year, Rev. Peyton, the world's foremost country blues finger-style picker, along with the biggest little band in the country, has pieced together one of the most dedicated followings out there.
With all the power of a freight train, the Big Damn Band is known for its live shows. Rev. Peyton delivers guitar pyrotechnics the old fashioned way - ten fingers, a 6 string and an amp cranked at full tilt. In the country blues style, he plays the bass with his thumb, while picking the lead with his fingers at the same time. When he lifts the guitar behind his head to play, there's nothing but skill and 16 gauge nickel strings to make the sounds coming out of the speakers.
Beside him on stage are just two other people. His wife, "Washboard" Breezy Peyton playing with all the nuance and percussive power of a New Orleans drum line, and keeping the train moving is Max Senteney on a lean drum kit including a 5 gallon maple syrup bucket. Together they play Peyton's wildman country blues that's as much ZZ Top as it is Bukka White."
At the front of Big Damn Band is a highly skilled instrumentalist and string player. A talent which, according to Rev. Peyton himself, was as natural as a fish in water. "I always tell people when I was a little kid, I felt a little bit lost. Like I didn't know what I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do," Rev. Peyton explains. "When I first started playing guitar, I likened it to a fish. If you take a fish out of water and you throw him on the ground, it flops around and looks real stupid. It makes a dumb fish face, and you're like 'look at that thing, look at how dumb it looks, let me put it in the water.' And it's like magic, it swims so fast and so beautiful, you can't even comprehend it as a creature that was born and lives on the land. And that's how I felt when I was handed a guitar. I felt like a fish that was thrown back in the water."
Rev. Peyton applies his strings expertise to not only guitars, but cigar boxes, axes, and even a shotgun. This is in part an homage to the American folk blues tradition of "people just making do with what they got," according to Peyton. However, Peyton also welcomes these abstract instrumentations as a testamant to his talent. "What I love now is sort of the challenge of taking something that's literally just a string across a stick and making music with it. Kind of proving that you don't need a 10,000 dollar instrument. That you can make music off of just about anything."
While the Big Damn Band certainly evokes imagery of mid-20th century blues and country stars like David "Honeyboy" Edwards, T-Model Ford, Mississippi John Hurt, and Howlin' Wolf, the trio is careful to avoid becoming a relic in today's modern musical world. Rather, Peyton strives to modernize their classic sound with personal narratives and performative flairs. "I've always sung about my life, my family, things I know, the things I've experienced. My life growing up, my life now. I didn't want to just be some sort of museum throwback thing, I wanted to carry this music into the future," Peyton says.
The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band will present their off the wall, high energy, and simultaneously old-and-new music on Friday, May 17th at the Lowertown Arts and Music Festival. The Big Damn Band takes the Main Stage at 9 p.m., closing out the festival's first night. You can find more information on the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band on their website here. For more information on the festival, visit the Lowertown Arts and Music Festival website here.