A guitar, a washboard, a small two-piece guitar kit with a five-gallon bucket, and the occasional harmonica – these are the instruments used by Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band to produce their grassroots and wholly unique throwback sound.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, ironically consisting of only three people, defines itself as prewar, rural country blues – the kind of blues that is more about rawness than anything else. Rural blues has less form and fewer rules, whereas city blues usually follows a 12-bar format and has a more electric, jazzier component.
The band’s appropriately self-defined “prewar” style couldn’t be more appropriate given the instruments that they use to churn out their rhythms, and they find solace in the fact that they’ve achieved such success using the means they’ve chosen to make their music with.
“Our style stems from the days when people couldn’t afford any other instruments,” said the Rev. Peyton after their show at Downtown Brewing Co. Wednesday night. “The small five-gallon bucket is from street-performer tradition, when people used what they did out of necessity.”
The band, which is made up of the Rev. Peyton on guitar, his wife Breezy on the washboard (as in a board that’s used to wash clothes), and his brother Jayme on the drums, originally hails from Nashville, Ind.
The band’s style involves the Rev. Peyton playing guitar and bass on the same instrument, using the higher chords for the guitar riffs and the lower chords for the bass. Breezy on the washboard gives the music a scratchy, beat-like quality that seamlessly integrates itself and is complemented by the lack of a bass player.
The Rev. Peyton, who is a legally ordained minister, downplays his name as more of an inherited nickname but later explained that it does have an influence on the band’s music.
“Being a legally ordained minister isn’t really a big deal. I mean, anyone can do it. What I’m most proud of is being given the title of Kentucky Colonel, which is the highest honor that can be conferred upon a civilian by the Governor of Kentucky. It’s a long story on how I got that title, but it essentially is from my contributions in music and the service guard.”
The band finds inspiration for its music in everyday occurrences and the people that are a part of them; this is easily discerned by the band having song titles such as “Pa’s Drunk Again,” “The Creeks Have Gone Bad,” “Your Cousin’s On Cops” and more religious tunes such as “Glory, Glory Hallelujah.”
The band decided to give up their jobs and tour full-time a little less than two years ago, and they’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success since then, touring across Europe, Canada and 47 states.
“I never thought that people would be as into us and as receptive to our style of music as they’ve been,” said the Rev. Peyton. “It’s really an amazing feeling.”
The concert itself seemed indicative of the band’s enthusiasm for the spirit they’ve been shown on tour. The Rev. Peyton involved the crowd with sing-alongs and danced all over stage while wailing on his guitar. The Rev. Peyton even went so far as to kick one of his brother’s cymbals during a few of his more animated guitar riffs, which only helped to animate the crowd.
“Yeah, I can kind of go nuts on stage, but I like to kick Jayme’s cymbals and use my guitar as percussion by slapping it because not only does it get the crowd into the show, but it’s also reflective of our prewar style.”
The concert was a great success, with the band selling immense amounts of merchandise after the show and receiving praise from every patron who passed by on their way out of the venue.
Moreover, the concert was additionally valuable due to the exposure it gave grassroots, blues and country music enthusiasts to a wholly different kind of blues music – a style that the Rev. Peyton affectionately refers to as “Mississippi Delta Blues.”
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is perpetually on tour and has toured with groups such as Flogging Molly, Derek Trucks’ Band and Hot Buttered Rum. Additional information on the Big Damn Band can be found at bigdamnband.com.