Guest Review: Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Between the Ditches

This post was written by Lisa Regula, one of the winners of our Review Contest!  Thanks to Lisa for this awesome work.  Look forward to reading more from her soon.

Hailing from the foothills in Brown County, Indiana, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is a working person’s band.  The audacious claim of Big Damn Band is backed up not by the numbers of personnel on their record, but by the energy and enthusiasm they bring to traditional and original songs written by The Rev.  Between the Ditches is the latest of five albums put together by the band known for touring 250 days of the year or more.  The newest addition takes their records to a new level, and definitely plays more as a record rather than a simple recording of their work.  Although Between the Ditches finally comes close to the experience of their live shows, you really ought not to call yourself a fan of the group until you see them live.  Unconventional is a label rightly and easily applied to Reverend Peyton, as this trio includes a washboard player, a 5-gallon bucket drum as part of their drum kit, and guitars ranging from a custom 1929 Gibsom flattop to a cigar box guitar.  Reverend Peyton generally takes alternative to heart, while crafting songs to which anyone familiar with working class life can relate.

Between the Ditches is a vibrant, gritty record best played on a turntable.  The boom-chucka-boom of Breezy’s washboard has a distinct background noise that she uses more adeptly and skillfully than most people reading this article could imagine, I would dare say.  Her playing gives the band its down-home-yet-exotic flavor, in part thanks to the unaccustomed sounds emanating from it.  The variety of guitars played by The Reverend is also a treat, and weaves an elaborate quilt made of the finest flour sack and burlap memories.  Cuz Persinger functions very well as a human metronome, keeping things moving along solidly while Breezy and The Rev play around with the songs.  Amidst the deliberate thrums of Peyton’s finger-style guitar and the driving drumbeats live universal lyrics, ranging from the ills of strip mining to the pride in a beater truck, from the difficulty in identifying good and bad to admonishments to not slam the screen door.  Between the Ditches is a yogi’s retreat in revival tent, and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is the flow that makes the whole thing work.

The beginning track starts off deep and philosophical, “Devil don’t live down in hell, the devil’s right here doing very well”, and maintains that mentality through the first three songs, with “Something for Nothing” addressing the need for payment in some form for all things, and “We’ll Get Through” belying the backbone of the trio’s success- love.  Beat down and facing hard times, “…but it’s me with you, we’ll get through…”  This song in particular is even more poignant after hearing that Breezy and The Rev met during his rehabilitation, and after he had been told that he would never play guitar again due to hand injuries.

The next set of four songs are far more light-hearted, speaking of muddin’ trucks, coping with the heat of summer in rural southern Indiana, divesting one’s self of negativity in a jovial fashion, and the prevalence of uncertainty.  While these tracks may have less intellectual meat, they’re rich with metaphor for someone willing to work through the instruments to key in on the lyrics, but let’s face it, with this set, taking the words at surface value and simply enjoying the up-beat moments is more than enough fun for the listener.

“Don’t Grind it Down” starts down the path of more meaningful work again, speaking of strip mining and the pragmatic need for sustainable futures for our children, as well as the emotional attachment to the land of our birth.  “The Money Goes” is a reference is poverty due to drug use, as in “…the money goes, up her nose…”While we’re used to rappers and urban artists speaking of drugs frankly, this track brings light to the growing problem faced by many Rust Belt rural areas, that of cheap and potent drugs.  “Move Along Mister” follows up with references of homelessness and the general down-trodden spirit found in destitution.  Not to be preachy, but given the considerable discussion of urban poverty while often ignoring the growing rates of poverty in small towns, given the right impetus, it’s easy to see this couplet as a call for attention to that too-often unseen problem.

Between the Ditches ends back on a less intellectually strenuous note, with an almost-PSA quality to the title track, imploring “…share the road…” and “…keep an eye out…”  “Brokedown Everywhere” could just as easily be the story of Grapes of Wrath put to music or the experience of every beginning musician.  “Brown County Band” is a soothing closure to the album, speaking of the importance of home that unites all humans.  Our geography helps to identify all peoples, whether in their attachment to home, or our desire to flee home.

Between the Ditches is not only an exceptionally solid introduction to a band that deserves great attention, but the beginning of good conversations of all types.  The album has something for every music lover, and every thinking person.

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