Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band

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Where: Night and Day Café Manchester

When: 5th May 2009

I suppose when you go to see a group called Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band, you don’t go expecting an evening of introspective loveliness, and there was most certainly none of that. Nothing deep. There was though plenty of strut, plenty of gumption, a song about tomatoes and a portly woman playing the washboard.

Just like I doubt Seasick Steve is a queasy mariner, I doubt the Rev Peyton is an ordained minister, him dishing out the sacrament in some church built to the blues, would however be a scene to behold. The Seasick Steve comparison is apt though, they are both in the same line of grizzled blues, with the true dust-bowl misery of their forefathers squeezed out of their work for the benefit of people who shop at Tesco.

In fact really their songs are a hodgepodge of country and blues, the Reverend’s voice is not as damaged or pitted as many of the traditional blues singers though he looks considerably older than his 27 years but sometimes his voice is more country crooner than Robert Johnson. More Gram Parsons then latter day Dylan.

The washboard player is called apparently “Washboard Breezy“, and is the Revs real wife, just as the drummer Jayme Peyton is the Revs real brother. I would certainly not describe her as breezy though, she had a face like thunder and a very un-ladylike like gait. I guess they used to share a trailer on the outskirts of Nashville watching Jerry Springer (90’s reference dear dear, showing my age) and frying green tomatoes. Not anymore though, now they’ve hit the big time, singing about, well frying green tomatoes. Talking of 90’s TV shows, one of the songs “Your Cousin’s On Cops” was inspired by one of Breezy’s relatives appearing on American reality dross show Cops. You know the one, some guy is arrested for loitering with intent or drunk driving, there’s always a chase, there’s always some nut sounding off. TV made for the kind of people who just sit in a dark room and swat flies. Take a breath. Anyway, there’s a song about that and I kid you not a song about how to make a potato machine gun out of some PVC nd a hairspray canister. You don’t learn that kind of thing at a Coldplay gig do you. Although I would frankly enjoy turning a potato machine gun on dear old Chris Martin. Pompous sod.

Like Robert Johnson, who famously sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for guitar playing prowess, the Rev is an outstanding acoustic guitar player. As he said at one point during the gig to his gathered congregation in a wonderful southern American drawl: “I don’t need a bass player, I can play bass fine on my own”, as he struck the bass strings of his acoustic geetar in a masterful manner. A stunning riposte to the humble bass player though I suppose, which he apparently delivers at each gig, he’s obviously got something against them and I think its got something to do with Breezy, envy, sex and tomatoes.

The music is the epitome of toe tapping, I wouldn’t want to be locked in a room with it for a long period of time, but that’s just me, I wouldn’t want to be locked in a room for a long period of time with Mick Jagger either, but I respect his talent, and the music of the Reverend provides a good hour of entertainment, brash character and humour. Another obvious musical comparison would be to recent Tom Waits. The “assembled in the back garden” sound of the music is very similar, just as Waits creates instruments from back yard junk, the Rev rehabilitates washboards and battered guitars. The sound is antique, in many ways, passed down through the ages and electrified today. There is even the odd wistful Waitsesque song, that laments the passing of time.

Their set was a little to short though I felt, this is obviously due to their lack of repertoire at the moment and this is understandable as they are a new group. What would be interesting is if the Rev dived into the bottomless archive of old American classics created by his heroes such as Charlie Patton, Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly and Furry Lewis and offered his take, Breezy’s washboard and all. However I do recommend that next time they grace our shores, you spend an hour with this big damn band with a big damn sound, a gorgeous washboard player and bags full of personality, who keep it all very much in the family.

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