TWO WEEKS AGO I got turned on to one of the coolest musical acts ever, when veteran Vancouver promoter and blues expert Ron Simmons sent in some info on the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. It got me watching the video for “Devils Look Like Angels”, a tune off the group’s latest album, Between the Ditches, and I was immediately hooked. The eye-catching clip depicts a sweet-looking little girl turning all badass—puncturing tires, stealing booze from a preacher, and even ripping off the Big Damn Band’s own busking receipts—while lip-synching to singer-guitarist Peyton’s burly vocals.
Turns out the idea to have the kid deliver his lyrics with a fuck-you face was Peyton’s own. “I thought it would be cool,” he explains from a gig in Taos, New Mexico, on a tour that visits the Vancouver FanClub on Wednesday (November 13). “But I was just trying to think of a way that I wouldn’t have as much of myself in the video, honestly.”
Another intriguing aspect of the “Devils” clip is the footage of a woman in shades, a black sundress, and red cowboy boots getting all down and funky on a washboard. The fact that it’s the Reverend’s wife, Breezy, makes you wonder if her mean washboard playing was what attracted him to her in the first place. The Rev quips that it was “just the fact that she was mean” that did the trick, but he admits that her washboard skills are a bonus.
“It’s part of our secret weapon,” he says, “our sound. It lives in a very similar place where most people play rhythm and acoustic guitar—that scratchy kind of acoustic guitar sort of place—so it really helps us fill in the live sound. Between my thumb playing bass and my fingers playing lead and the washboard and drums, there’s not much missin’.”
The full sound of the Indiana hillbilly country-blues trio—which includes drummer Ben “Bird Dog” Russell—comes through loud and clear on Between the Ditches. The band spent a lot longer making the album than its previous live-off-the-floor outings.
“It’s funny though,” notes Peyton, “like we still made it in a shorter amount of time than most people make a record. We’ve done records before in one Sunday afternoon, you know, and Between the Ditches we spent about three weeks on, which for us is an eternity.”
Some of that eternity may have involved poring over the plastic containers used to augment Russell’s drumkit, because it’s a fact that the RPBDB is the only rock band with a bucket endorsement deal. More of it likely involved the tuning of Peyton’s arsenal of vintage guitars, which he plays in the tricky fingerstyle manner that he first picked up from old Charlie Patton records.
“I spent basically my whole life trying to take country-blues fingerstyle guitar to someplace it hasn’t been before,” he explains. “Like in the song ‘Big Blue Chevy ’72’, I’ve never heard anybody do fingerstyle quite like that. It sounds like maybe a John Fogerty or Tony Joe White song, and most people who hear that think it’s at least two guitars, but it’s not.
“And when we come up to Vancouver I’ll prove it to ya.”