Artist: The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
Album: Poor Until Payday
Release date: October 5, 2018
The deal. There’s the story, perhaps apocryphal, about a drunken W.C. Fields falling down a flight of stairs and, upon hitting the actual-if-not-metaphorical bottom, declaring the tumble a success, since he hadn’t spilled his drink. It’s certainly a sad story, but it also demonstrates the fine line between raw and sloppy. Raw is careening down stairs. Sloppy is breaking glass along the way. The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s Poor Until Payday is raw perfection.
Raw is exciting (except with meat; then it’s kind of gross). It’s visceral. It’s a feeling of running without knowing where you’re going, or even why you’re running. That’s the joy of Poor Until Payday. The band name is a joke, as it’s a three-piece fronted by Peyton, with his wife “Washboard” Breezy Peyton on, of course, washboard, and Max Senteney on drums. The band, as you might gather from their names, go for an old-fashioned vibe. Peyton plays old guitars, including resonators, and features tons of old-school bluesy slide guitar. But the energy is so aggressive, it reads as decidedly modern. No country blues artist uses a tone like his, which constantly threatens to red-line into distortion. No blues drummer creates a driving rhythm like Senteney. Their music has just as much in common with punk as it does with blues.
Although Peyton does often use his slide to create an old-time sound. “Church Clothes” is just Peyton’s slide and voice. He often uses the slide to create a time-bending effect, creating the sound of a warped record on an uneven turntable. “Frenchmen Street” uses a similar style, as well as a mic sound right out of a field recording, to create the illusion of time travel, the past and present intertwining.
“So Good” features some particularly nasty slide work with the intensity of a belligerent customer getting dragged out of a bar by the bouncer. Peyton’s slide swerves through a groove that sounds like the Beatles’ “Come Together” after pounding six espressos. Peyton avoids the downbeat, sometimes lagging just behind it, sometimes jumping in front of it, all giving the song a feeling that it could fall apart at any moment. But the rhythm of the washboard and drums hold everything together, so even as Peyton’s slide threatens to explode into the atmosphere, he’s always tethered to the song.
Straight talk. Peyton’s voice is fine. At times, it can sound a little cartoon-y. Sometimes, he’s got a little bit of a grunge inflection. But his tone and singing aren’t what drive the songs. It’s the music beneath it that’s at the center of the album. The vocals certainly provide melody, but they’re futilely fighting waves of guitar and drums. But the fight doesn’t diminish the songs; it just adds to the chaos energy.
The confession. The link to this was buried in an email about a Peyton tour. I clicked on the link while trying to clean out my inbox and I’m glad I did. I’m also pleasantly surprised by my thoroughness.
Closing arguments. I’ve been reviewing a bit more pop lately, which is a fun change of pace, but hearing something like Poor Until Payday reminds me of the power and impact of the blues. Peyton’s Big Damn Band crafts a huge-yet-simple sound, mostly on the back of Peyton’s amazing slide work, but also on the band’s manic energy, which is electric without being shocking.
So much amazing music comes out all of the time. I review what I can as quickly as I can, working my physical and digital piles as efficiently as possible, but things fall between the cracks. Rather than giving up on things that are a little past their prime, contemporary-review-standards-wise, I’m going back for the overflow that deserves to be heard — even if it’s a little late.