Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Dance Songs for Hard Times | Album Review

Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Dance Songs for Hard Times

Family Crown Records/Thirty Tigers

11 songs – 35 minutes

One of the most unique outfits on the blues scene today, Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band present a large presence despite being a country blues trio, and they’re larger than life on their latest release, a collection of originals written by candlelight at the depths of despair during the coronavirus epidemic.

But don’t let the title fool you, Despite its somber tone, the material here is an in-your-face set of intense, highly rhythmic tunes that confront troubles head-on and put a somewhat positive spin on life in the most difficult time imaginable. “I like songs that sound happy, but are actually very sad,” Peyton says. “I don’t know why it is, but I just do.”

Currently nominated for Blues Music Award blues-rock band of the year – quite a contrast to an image more suited for a front porch in the backwoods rather than main stage, the past year was particularly difficult for guitarist vocalist Reverend Peyton, wife Washboard Breezy Peyton and percussionist Sad Max Senteney.

Not only were the Peytons robbed of their ability to make a living, but the their 150-year-old log cabin in rural southern Indiana lost power for an extended period after a wind storm and both Breezy and the Rev.’s dad experienced lingering medical issues. The Rev. literally penned most of the material here in a home lit only by flickering candles. “It’s been a struggle the entire time,” he says. “Nothing’s been easy. Other than the music.”

Dance Songs for Hard Times was produced, engineered and mixed by four-time Grammy-winner Vance Powell at Sputnik Sound in Nashville, where it was recorded old-school on vintage analog equipment with the Rev. playing through a 1954 Supro Dual Tone amp, kicking up his usual down home, finger picking stylings by adding a taste of vintage Chicago slide, too.

The action opens with “Ways and Means,” a driving shuffle that juxtaposes having a $3 shirt and a $100 hat and other anachronisms, symbolizing Peyton’s yearlong economic frustration after being laid low after constant touring. The message continues in the loping, rapid-fire “Rattle Can” – delivered on slide – as the Rev. insists: “I need the whole enchilada. I need the whole shebang. Just a little bit won’t do.”

The Rev. faces his situation head-on in “Dirty Hustlin'” and professes “I ain’t scared of nothin’” while proclaiming he’ll do whatever necessary to survive – a message that continues in the optimistic “I’ll Pick You Up.” His picking skills come to the fore in “Too Cool to Dance,” which insists that he and Breezy take a spin on the floor and ignore whatever folks might say.

The sound quiets for the stripped-down “No Tellin’ When,” which offers a simple plea for a reunion with family and friends. It gives way to “Sad Songs,” a deceptive title because Peyton warns that he’s a dangerous man who shouldn’t be left alone with depressing melodies. “Crime to Be Poor” serves up a Hill Country complaint about folks imprisoned for committing crimes because of their living conditions to follow.

The final three numbers instill a smidgeon of hope for the future. “’Til We Die” – an urban blues delivered on slide – predicts success no matter what come at him. The message continues in “Nothin’ Comes Easy but You and Me” before “Come Down Angels” serves up a request for a little heavenly relief to close.

The dark themes run deep in this one, but it’s surprisingly uplifting, too. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a little inspiration from down in the bottom.

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