Friday, June 30, 2017

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band ~~ Front Porch Sessions

Photo By Tyler Zoller
Every so often I get in the mood for some down home country blues, the kind of blues that first attracted me to the genre. While I love just about every version of the blues, sometimes I just need them like I need a meal of cornbread and black-eyed peas.
Fortunately I had just picked up a copy of The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s latest disc, Front Porch Sessions, and that satisfied those cravings like you wouldn’t believe. Just like the title implies, these songs sound like they were all played on the front porch with a glass of lemonade (or something stronger) sitting next to you.
Peyton’s guitars, both fingerpicking and slide, along with his cigarbox guitar and vocals are strong and carry the brunt of the album. Even with the help of Washboard Breezy Peyton on washboard, tambourine, snaps, claps, and background vocals and Maxwell Senteney on suitcase drums, tambourine, snaps, claps, other percussion, and background vocals, the album still rests primarily on the Good Reverend’s broad shoulders.
It’s a gentler form of the blues, deeply rooted in country rhythms and concerns making this a universal album. The problems of one are the problems of all, and Peyton makes a good case in the six songs he wrote and the five songs he covers on Front Porch Sessions.
Let’s all pile into the rusted work truck with the busted AM radio and head down the road a piece and join the congregation and listen to the Reverend’s sermon.
The album starts off with a little soulful guitar on We Deserve A Happy Ending. The slide picks up and gives it some spice. This is actually the longest song on the album, at just over four minutes long – the songs are very economical – and it sets the mood nicely.
Furry Lewis’ When My Baby Left Me is the next number. The guitar work is beautiful and rich and Peyton’s vocals ring out strong. I get the feeling that Peyton probably pulls this one out when they are playing live just to show that he can do some great solo work.
There’s some cool jazzy riffs and finger popping to open Shakey Shirley. The song has some interesting, almost ethereal guitar running through this Peyton-penned number. Breezy’s backing vocals adds another element to the song.
There’s a quick shuffle to open What You Did To The Boy Ain’t Right and Peyton then opens his voice and sings his vocals to the heavens. His guitar work has been steady throughout the album, and here he pulls out all the stops. He follows up with One Bad Shoe, with some slow slide opening the song. It’s a languid number that pulls you in a bit at a time.
The first of two instrumentals, It’s All Night Long, is next. Written by Miles Pratcher and Bob Pratcher it’s a foot-stomping hoedown of a song. Lots of claps provided by Breezy and Senteney and great cigarbox guitar by Peyton. Can’t help but have some fun with a song like this. Heard many like it in barns all across the South…
The gentle song, One More Thing, follows and Peyton’s voice is deep and pained. It’s one of those numbers that makes you stop and pause and listen to the entire thing with full attention. You can feel the emotion that Peyton brings to the song, and you know that he’s singing for so many people that are feeling the problems of life piling on.
The second instrumental, Flying Squirrels, should be adapted by Richmond Virginia’s baseball team of the same name. This is a quick, almost bluegrass sounding number with some great guitar. Once again, this one would be a great one to play at any barn dance to get those feet moving…
Blind Willie Johnson’s Let Your Light Shine follows and you can feel the emotion in every note of Peyton’s playing. He approaches the song with a strong evangelical feel and Johnson’s words have never rung so true. He has such fervor that it can restore the faith of an unbeliever and make a religious man reach out a helping hand to one who needs it.
Next up is the traditional number, When You Lose Your Money. The story of Stagger Lee has given us many great songs and at least one classic. This is a great version and Peyton’s playing recreates those itinerant blues players who traveled from roadhouse to juke joint looking for a place to play. When they couldn’t find one, they would perch on a street corner or near a work camp and draw a crowd. The song transported me to a different place and time.
Finally, the album ends up with another traditional song, Cornbread And Butterbeans. Aside from being a dinner that I’ve eaten many times, it’s a quick number that really brings the Front Porch Sessions to a close. It’s been a fun time in the country and I can’t wait to take another trip down this road again.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band can make a believer out of just about anyone. He is a great evangelist for the blues, and even those who prefer their blues electrified and not sanctified, there is a great deal to love. In my opinion, there are many well-known blues artists who are amazing technicians but who lack the heart to really reach an audience’s soul.
Peyton sings everything with his heart and soul before it ever becomes his voice. So, even if you don’t usually gravitate towards the country sounds, give this one a chance and I think you just might find yourself in the Amen Corner before next Sunday.

Find out more about the Good Reverend and his flock by going to his website, http://www.bigdamnband.com/, to find out more about his earlier releases and his travel plans. I hope to make a pilgrimage to catch him somewhere down the road. In the meantime, I’ll be playing Front Porch Sessions more and more.
Photo by Tyler Zoller

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