By Thom Jennings
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Hailing from deep in the hills of a small town in Southern Indiana, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band combines traditional country and blues and sets it to a punk rock beat. The Reverend himself is an impressive finger style guitarist, able to play bass lines and lead simultaneously with such proficiency that a fellow musician once accused him of playing to a recorded bass track.
The three-piece band includes the Reverend on guitar, his wife Breezy Peyton on washboard and Aaron Persinger on drums. They are one of the hardest working bands in the nation, playing two hundred fifty dates a year. “That keeps us on the road about three hundred days a year,” Breezy told the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal backstage before a recent performance at The Tralf. The band will be back there April 28 supporting Reverend Horton Heat.
The group’s story is inspiring, a combination of raw determination and good fortune. For the last four years they have kept a busy schedule of touring and recording and building a loyal fan base. “It’s been great; things have progressed faster for us than a lot of other bands. We have been very lucky,” Reverend Peyton noted.
They hail from a small town, so touring the country and parts of Europe has given the Reverend and Breezy a new perspective on things. When asked if there was any culture shock the first time touring, the Reverend said, “Oh yeah, but I wish everybody could travel the country. It gives you a whole new perspective on things and really makes you appreciate your home.”
That appreciation for his hometown has influenced his songwriting.
“The songs I wrote for our first album were about traveling, but on the last few (albums) they have been about home,” he said.
The band got their first break opening for Derek Trucks on a short tour, after which they abandoned their day jobs and decided to try and eke out a living playing music. The early days were not without their challenges or second thoughts. Money was tight and while the group was on tour, its van broke down.
“The van’s transmission went out and we were out of money. That day I got a call from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) saying they wanted to use a couple of our songs for a documentary they were doing. The amount they paid was exactly how much it was going to cost to fix the transmission,” Reverend Peyton said.
Breezy said, “After that, we got back on the road and things started progressing, we got an opening gig for Flogging Molly and that is how we wound up on their label (SideOneDummy Records). The shows starting getting bigger and things really started happening.”
Breezy explained how the band met national recording artists Flogging Molly for the first time.
“We wound up opening for Flogging Molly by accident. The promoter screwed up and put us on the same bill with them in Milwaukee and as we were playing I saw them dancing on the side of the stage checking us out. We became good friends that night and they promised us that the next time they went on tour they would take us along — a month later they called and gave us a spot opening for them.”
“That was when ‘Float’ came out and debuted at number four on the pop charts so Flogging Molly was getting a lot of press and so were we,” Reverend Peyton said. “It was a great opportunity for us and I loved playing with them because they are real music fans and easy to get along with.”
In concert, Reverend Peyton dazzles crowds with his technique; at one point in the show he plays “Yankee Doodle Dandy” on the guitar’s upper bass strings while playing “Dixie” on the higher strings. This is particularly impressive considering that due to cramping in his hands the Reverend was not physically able to play guitar at one time.
“I couldn’t play guitar for two years. I had surgery performed and it made me a better player and a better person. I guess things happen for a reason. After the surgery I could play anything that was in my head,” he said.
The band is known for their high energy performances and both Reverend Peyton and Breezy believe that live music should be played entirely live.
“If you are a band, then people expect you to play live and feed off the energy, not play an iPod. Too many groups use computers in the studio to doctor things up and then can’t play live,” Reverend Peyton said.
He summed up the bands philosophy this way: “The world of music has become increasingly margarine and saccharine. I want to be butter and sugar.”