I first got introduced to Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band a few years back when the stars aligned. Almost at the same time, both a good friend and a noted music industry publicist started telling me about them.
The latter sent me their CD thinking I might enjoy it and he was right! They eventually sent me the vinyl version of the album to review which you can read by clicking here.
I’ve been keeping loose tabs on what the good Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band have been up to and I was excited when I heard that they were putting out a new album crafted during the pandemic. It is called, appropriately, Dance Songs For Hard Times.
Before I get to all that I should explain that this Big Damn Band is actually a tight trio, featuring Peyton’s lead guitar and vocals. “Washboard Breezy Peyton” delivers backing vocals, percussion and plays the washboard while the two get bedrock support from drummer, percussionist and vocalist Max Senteney.
Peyton himself plays bad-ass, gut-bucket barrelhouse blues guitar which alone would be enough to captivate many guitar fanatics. But he sings with a piercing voice that falls somewhere between old time blues greats from the 20-50s and punk blues legends like Gary Floyd (The Dicks, Sister Double Happiness, Black Kali Ma) and maybe even a little bit of Jello Biafra (i.e. The Dead Kennedys).
One of the big distinctions I’ve discovered as I’ve been picking up more of the Reverend’s albums – – and I’ve been surprised just how many of them there are! – – is that he can write a good tune, bottom line.
Don’t go into this expecting a lot of groundbreaking “new” music in terms of genre busting and crossover and such. No, this band is steeped in the grand tradition of open-tuned slide guitar driven blues and R&B with a little bit of punk attitude and occasional mayhem thrown in for good measure.
In a word: this music is fun!
I keep on coming back to the melodies and hooks and this new album has tons of them. Two of my favorites on the new album, Dance Songs For Hard Times, are happily also early video releases for the group.
The fun “Ways & Means” is perfect for these times where everyone is trying to make ends meet somehow. “Too Cool To Dance” resonated with me as I was admittedly once one of those nervous wallflowers at clubs and dances afraid to dance and missing many chances (because I was trying to be cool but in actuality I was not feeling remotely cool enough to make it out on the dance floor. Lessons learned!).
Dance Songs For Hard Times does have some poignant moments of reflection such as the beautiful “No Tellin’ When” which explores the fears of not seeing our family and friends during this pandemic nightmare.
As I have found with past albums by Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, the recording quality on Dance Songs For Hard Times is very good and appropriate for the music.
Reading between the lines on the liner notes — which says “this album was recorded live to tape with supreme joy” — it seems quite possible that was made at least in part in the analog domain if not totally. It was recorded at Sputnik Sound, a studio which is outfitted with much vintage gear, so that is great to know about this attention to detail employed to deliver a sound true to the music.
Produced by four time Grammy winner Vance Powell, there is clearly some strong musical DNA beneath creation of this album. Accordingly, Dance Songs For Hard Times has a nice rich feel on vinyl — which is dark, thick, well centered and dead quiet, a nice pressing — in particular. The CD sounds great in the car if you still have a player there.