Working Man’s Blues
The Reverend Peyton celebrates the virtues of hard work and good pot roast.
By Bob Weinberg
Photos by Tyler Zoller
The Reverend Peyton is a big man, not the sort you’d want to piss off or owe money. Dressed in denim overalls, a short-brim cap shading an intense gaze, the eponymous leader of The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band — a trio, actually — commands a cramped stage at the Vintage Tap, a tiny tavern in Delray Beach, Florida. Possessing a vibrato vocal that could bend steel, the burly, black-bearded bluesman pulls rhythms from his guitar like he was yanking tree stumps from the ground. The cords of his biceps — one of which is tattooed with the state of Indiana and the motto “Corn Bred, Corn Fed” — stretch taut as he expertly chords and works a bottleneck slide on any one of a half-dozen guitars he’s brought along to this tour stop in March. With a library of licks at his fingertips, the Rev recalls blues heroes such as Mississippi Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside and Charley Patton, but with the speed and energy of a punk rocker.
A few songs in, the Rev’s wife, Breezy Peyton — who plays washboard and sings harmonies — convinces a sweaty crush of young hipsters and aging blues fans to unglue themselves from the bar, where they’re crammed three-deep, and to bring the party closer to the stage. Not that they need much coercion. With drummer Ben “Birddog” Bussell’s unrelenting beats, the Rev’s freight-train guitar and Breezy’s insistent scrubbing on her corrugated instrument, keeping still is not an option. Nor is keeping silent during the choruses of the Rev’s insanely catchy songs — such as “Pot Roast and Kisses” or “Raise a Little Hell,” from the group’s latest recording, So Delicious! — to which the audience jubilantly shouts along, delighted to be part of the show.
“That’s the idea, you know? It’s so much about the rhythm,” Peyton affirms, talking by phone a week later from a gas station in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Far from their home in southern Indiana, he and his bandmates have pulled over for lunch while driving to their next road gig, one in about 250 they’ll perform this year.
“All American music is inherently dance music,” Breezy offers. “I think that’s why a lot of [acts] in the hip-hop world are playing with live bands. I think they’re realizing that the electronic, computerized beats aren’t what’s making people dance.”