Cigar Box Guitars, Bottleneck Slide, Washboards & Harp Illuminate Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s ‘Poor Until Payday’ (ALBUM REVIEW)


Making a sound instilled with a decided brashness and bluster, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s name represents something of a misnomer. The Big Damn Band is, in fact, a mere trio, though a powerful one at that, and the Reverend himself is a preacher that extols the blues, and not any specific spirituality. Nevertheless, “You Can’t Still My Shine,” the opening track of their rollicking new record, Poor Until Payday, sounds like an anthemic call to arms, one that sets the tone for the album overall.

Peyton and his colleagues lean towards a sound of a vintage variety — cigar box guitars, bottleneck slide, washboards, drums and harp. However, it’s Peyton’s gritty vocals and unrepentant attitude that provide the template for these tempestuous trappings. Whether it’s in the form of the steady stomp that accompanies “So Good,” the insistent sound of “Get the Family Together” or the joyful romp of “Frenchmen Street,” the confluence of rugged rural blues and a traditional tack — one that often recalls the field music made by crop pickers in the ‘20s and ‘30s — makes Peyton’s provisos come across like nothing less than a rocking revival. The stoic boogie of “Dirty Swerve,” a song that takes on a certain insurgent stance, shines alongside the cheerleading come-on of the title track and finds a spiritual solace all its own. Likewise, the rare moment of respite that comes in the singular acoustic fretwork that frames “Church Clothes” further affirms this knowing mash-up of acumen and attitude remains well in sync.

As a result, archivists can credit Peyton and company for hewing so close to an authentic sound without falling prey to any modern accouterments. Stripped down to the essential additives, they still manage to convey a propulsive power that can still sound sinister or suggestive. “What goes around comes around,” the good reverend sneers on “Me and the Devil,” and that’s entirely evident here. Robert Johnson, Charlie Peyton and the rest of their brethren would certainly be proud.

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