photography & words | MICHAEL KEARNS

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band hails from Brown County, Indiana, and isn’t—big that is. It is, rather, a three-piece American, country-blues band playing two-hundred-and-fifty dates a year, gigging at venues ranging from bars to festivals while invoking the ghosts of John Lee Hooker and R. L. Burnside. They played on Saturday, November 26th, at The Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky.

The band is led by singer–songwriter Reverend Peyton who fingerpicks lead guitar while supplying vocals. He is joined by his wife, Breezy Peyton, on washboard and supporting vocals, and Max Senteney on drums and supporting vocals. Beyond playing delta and country blues, the band also ventures into many other genres of music, including country, rock, and folk. Much of the music defies easy characterization; it’s easier to say that what they do is play music in a very frenetic manner while raising a lot of hell in the process.

As is usually the case, the Rev, his twenty-inch tattooed biceps, Breezy, and Max came out on Saturday night and proceeded to raise a lot of hell. Throughout his set, The Rev strutted, posed, and preened while playing some fine music on a series of vintage guitars.

The Rev’s arsenal includes any number of them—a rusty 1930 steel-bodied National, a 1934 wood-bodied National Trojan Resonator, and a 1994 reproduction of a 1929 Gibson acoustic.

More than just a stage show, the Rev’s music is also a reflection of the band’s lifestyle. The Rev and his band extolled the virtues of home cooking on “So Delicious” and “Fried Potatoes” and paid homage to the Rev’s home region on “Bean Blossom Boogie.”

Throughout the night, the Rev clearly took delight in playing to the appreciative and sold-out crowd, preaching to the congregation, which was only fitting given that the Southgate House is a renovated nineteenth-century church.

In the end, it all came together like biscuits and gravy or collard greens and fried chicken. The Rev, his horde, and the Southgate House melted into one delicious mess—like hot peach cobbler and warm ice cream.

Which is to say, when you go to see The Big Damn Band, you should plan on going large or staying at home. It’s not that a Big Damn Band show constitutes a danger to civil order or a physical threat to safety, but if you’re not ready for their antics, the hillbilly mosh pit, and a screaming crowd, you’re not likely to properly appreciate the show. If, on the other hand, you’re feeling thirsty, have a hankerin’ to raise a little hell, and have an appreciation, or at least a desire, to dine upon a fine delta and country blues, rock, folk mélange, paired with some superior guitar playing, then you need to get yourself to church.

And you should go, as listening to someone chat about the Rev’s music is like reading about a hurricane. Even the best written description pales to the reality of braving the wind and rain. And so it is with Peyton and his cohorts. Go see ‘em live—it’s a fine way to spend a Saturday night.

If nothing else, after this long, gray humorless year, the Rev will remind you of how nice it feels to smile.


Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band played The Southgate House Revival in Newport on November 26, 2016