This past weekend I had the opportunity to shoot The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band at Snowshoe Resort during the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. This was the the first time I watched them and honestly by the end of the night I was a huge fan!
The energy was insane!
The new album from Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band was written by candlelight and then recorded using the best technology available in the 1950s.
But listeners won’t find another album as relevant, electrifying and timely as “Dance Songs for Hard Times.”
Scheduled for independent release April 9, 2021, via Thirty Tigers, “Dance Songs for Hard Times” conveys the hopes and fears of pandemic living. Current BMA nominee, Rev. Peyton, the Big Damn Band’s vocalist and world-class fingerstyle guitarist, details bleak financial challenges on the songs “Ways and Means” and “Dirty Hustlin’.” He pines for in-person reunions with loved ones on “No Tellin’ When,” and he pleads for celestial relief on the album-closing “Come Down Angels.”
Far from a depressing listen, “Dance Songs” lives up to its name by delivering action-packed riffs and rhythms across 11 songs. The country blues trio that won over crowds on more than one Warped Tour knows how to make an audience move.
“I like songs that sound happy but are actually very sad,” Peyton says. “I don’t know why it is, but I just do.”
Of course, the greatest front-porch blues band in the world found itself sidelined from a relentless touring schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic. Peyton says he was surprised when his mind and soul unleashed a batch of new songs in March and April of 2020.
Josh “The Reverend” Peyton was born April 12, 1981, in Eagletown, Indiana. In 1999 he was voted homecoming king at Westfield High School, in Westfield, Indiana. Original member and Rev’s brother, Jayme, was born in 1983. Their father was a concrete man who performed odd jobs during the winter months for extra money, from plowing snow and chopping wood to fur trapping. Rev Peyton’s first introduction to music was via his father’s record collection of blues-oriented rock, including Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. At age 12, Rev Peyton’s father gave him a red Kay “State of the Art” model guitar, eventually purchasing a Gorilla amplifier once he learned to play. A friend pointed out the blues sound of Rev Peyton’s guitar playing, sending Peyton off on an exploration of the blues of BB King, Muddy Waters and B.B. King’s cousin Bukka White. Further exploration led to pre-World War II “country blues”, and a desire to learn the finger-picking style of artists like Charlie Patton. At the time Peyton was unable to master it, instead playing more pick-oriented blues.
Peyton played a party following his high school graduation, and the next morning suffered excruciating pain in his hands. Doctors told Peyton he’d never be able to hold his left hand in fretting position again. At that point, he gave up on music and spent a year working as the desk clerk in a hotel. During the period when he couldn’t physically play guitar, he spent hours imagining playing guitar.
Eventually Peyton sought other medical advice. The Indiana Hand Center operated on his left hand removing a mass of scar tissue which gave him a new flexibility and greater control in his fretting hand that enabled him to play in the “finger” style that had long eluded him. While recovering from surgery, Rev Peyton met Breezy. He played her the music of Charley Patton, and she played him Jimbo Mathus’ album Plays Songs For Rosetta, a benefit for his childhood caretaker – Patton’s daughter, Rosetta. Their first date was at the Indiana State Fair, where Peyton won a stuffed animal they named the “Big Damn Bear”, which gave them a name for their band.
Breezy took up the washboard, and the pair started writing songs. A trip to Clarksdale, Mississippi inspired them to resume playing music, and their first gigs were at Melody Inn Tavern in Indianapolis, Indiana. The band played blues festivals, headlined two nights at actor Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, and toured as the opening act for Mary Prankster. Eventually, a 40-hour drive from Indiana to El Centro, California to open for the Derek Trucks Band and Susan Tedeschi convinced the band to devote themselves to music and touring full-time. They received an offer from a blues record label, but discovered that they had sold more copies of their independently pressed CD “The Pork’n’Beans Collection” at their concerts than the label had managed to sell of any of their other artists. They married on June 14, 2003.
The Big Damn Band has toured constantly in the United States, Canada and Europe, steadily building popularity and sales of their albums.
In September 2007, drummer Jayme Peyton was unable to enter Canada to play a concert due to a “youthful indiscretion”. His brother and sister-in-law had to leave him at a Greyhound bus station to play the date with local substitute drummer Josh Contant. (Jayme had to hide in the woods near the truck stop to avoid being arrested as a vagrant.)
The band survived the departure of founding member Jayme Peyton in December 2009, who was replaced by Aaron ‘Cuz’ Persinger, who debuted at their annual homecoming show in Indianapolis at the Vogue Theatre. Persinger was replaced with Ben ‘Bird Dog’ Bussell. Rev Peyton is a Kentucky Colonel.
In June 2008, they signed with Los Angeles-based SideOneDummy Records, a label they shared with Flogging Molly. They released The Whole Fam Damily on August 5, 2008 through the label, and it entered the Billboard Blues Chart at #4. They released three additional albums with SideOneDummy – The Wages, Payton on Patton and Between The Ditches.
September 18, 2014 the band announced that they signed with Shanachie Entertainment’s recently revived Yazoo Records label, which previously had specialized in reissues. The label announced that “The release of this album marks the first time that a contemporary artist has been released on Yazoo”. Their album So Delicious was released on February 17, 2015.
No longer associated with the Yazoo label, the band released The Front Porch Sessions on March 10, 2017 on the Thirty Tigers label, debuting at #1 on the iTunes Blues chart, and #2 on the Billboard Blues chart.
During this I shot with a Nikon D750 with a Tamron 70-200mm F 2.8 lens.