The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
The Front Porch Sessions
(Family Owned / Thirty Tigers)
US: 10 Mar 2017
UK: 10 Mar 2017
The latest Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band album isn’t what it’s billed as. The record is more of a Reverend Peyton solo release with the other two group members sitting in and playing behind him on a few cuts. That said, the Reverend has always been the center of attention. Even when Breezy Peyton was setting her washboard on fire or Max Senteney went ape on the drums, the Reverend always seemed in command of what was happening on the stage.
For the unfamiliar, Southern Indiana’s Reverend Peyton and company play wild country blues rooted in the juke joints of Mississippi. The music on the new record is rough and rootsy with no concessions to modern technology, and it’s recorded with vintage equipment. It’s the sound of plunking and banging and hitting the strings hard while one sings in a half-holler. One could easily be fooled into thinking the material on the latest release was field music originally taped on a wire recorder 75 years ago.
The Reverend wrote about half the compositions here—six out of 11—and covers five old blues tunes: one by Willie Johnson (“Let Your Light Shine”), Furry Lewis (“When My Baby Left Me”), the Pratcher brothers (“It’s All Night Long”) and two traditional numbers (“When You Lose Your Money”, “Cornbread” and “Butterbeans”). The energy with which he takes on these old-time songs brings them into the present. The tempo may be measured, but it has a martial serving-in-the-army-of-the-Lord type of feeling.
Relatedly, the Reverend punctuates the instrumental Pratcher song with whoops and shouts to keep the mood moving, so to speak. He turns “Stagger Lee” (here called “When You Lose Your Money”) into a coarse haunting echo that shares little in common with more popular versions by the Grateful Dead and Lloyd Price. The Reverend’s rendition sounds bleaker and much less poetic than other interpretations.
The more joyful material here, such as the self-penned “We Deserve a Happy Ending” and “Shakey Shirley”, allow the Reverend to put his powerful guitar licks in the service of a good time. He gets playful on the instrumental “Flying Squirrels”, which allows him to pay more attention to the polyrhythms than just the beat. The mix of heavy themes and lighter ones keeps the album from getting bogged down despite the relative monotony of its consistent tone. The tracks on this album could be easily shuffled without significantly changing anything.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band recorded Front Porch Sessions at a studio just down the street from the rural Hoosier tract where he lives. It certainly has that down-home feel, and when played back on high-tech equipment, it sounds as if something is missing. That’s intentional. The music tries to recreate the experience of sitting out on the veranda, plucking away and singing to the crickets and the birds. Those who yearn for this craggy intimacy should enjoy this noisy album. Others may find the sound of just insects and avian calls sufficiently pleasing. It’s a matter of choice. This music treads that line between the crude and the primal, but it is certainly not pastoral.
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