Big all over3/4/2015
Despite the name, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is just three people: The Reverend himself, Washboard Breezy Peyton and drummer Ben Bussell. But what the band lacks in actual size, it makes up for in sound.
Self described as “high energy country blues” Reverend Peyton’s musical output is a potent combination of old fashioned delta blues and the high octane emotional charge you can only get from a proper hillbilly. For the musical end of that pairing, Peyton credits his childhood, where his father’s taste in music combined with his own natural curiosity.
“You start by listening to anything you can get your hands on,” Peyton said of his musical beginnings. “My dad was into lots of old rock and roll and blues stuff. I listened, and kept going back and back: ‘Who did they listen to?’ I don’t know why, but I had a unique obsession with that at a real early age. You start seeing names like Charlie Patton and John Hurt.”
Perhaps the biggest influence the old bluesmen had on Peyton’s style can be seen in his picking. Not only does Peyton rely exclusively on finger picking, but he has also developed a method of picking two melodies with one hand. It is technically difficult and mentally demanding but results in a sound that must be heard live. And he took to it early.
“When you’re a kid and you’re 12 years old and just starting to play, everything feels like a mountain,” he said of picking up the style. “The first time I heard someone play that way, I couldn’t get my head around how it was even possible. It’s not just in your hands; it’s in your mind. It was a while before I was able to get it right.”
Now, many of Reverend Peyton’s shows include a point where he will slow things down and break down for an audience exactly what’s going on, because it is not something many people have experience with nowadays. Some may not even know that it can be done without technology.
“There’s a lot of separation between my thumb and fingers,” he said. “It’s a great way to explain to people what they’re seeing live. Nowadays, people are used to seeing people do it with a loop pedal or a poly-octave generator. I still do it all with my hands.”
But a live Reverend Peyton show is about more than just The Reverend’s technical talents. The sound is full and rich, and the experience is highly interactive and engaging. A large part of that crowd engagement comes from Breezy Peyton and her (sometimes flaming) washboard.
“Live, it’s definitely the best part of the show,” Peyton said. “She’s so much fun to watch. Musically, she’s really come into her own. She’s singing more. That helps really thicken up the sound; it makes for a more dynamic record, which was a goal for me.”
Over the band’s discography, Breezy’s harmonies have become more noticeable as she has gained confidence, and her vocals, combined with the Reverend’s unique warble, create harmonies that elevate the material.
From dual-melody picking to homemade cigar box guitars, Reverend Peyton’s show is a throwback to a simpler, unfettered time. There is nothing in the act that relies on modern effects or technology. Rather, the Big Damn Band gets by on high energy, fantastic music and a big damn sound. CV