Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The Rev. and his “big band” are at it again with a release that sounds like it was written about 50 years ago in the heart of the Delta. The man who is front porch trained, along with his two partners, Breezy and Max released their 10th album. It is said the third time is the charm, but maybe it is really the tenth time because this album is totally enchanting. The title, Dance Songs For Hard Times. is certainly timely and appropriate. They are continually creating their own brand of blues and rock and roll. All things old are new again. And that’s fine with me because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The good thing is that the band is constantly changing and evolving. This album is the culmination of years of playing, practicing, and trial and error. They know what works and they get every drop of value out of it.
This is blues without repetition. It is true that blues songs can sometimes sound the same because the artist works with a pretty limited palette. Not true with Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Every song on this release is distinct and will not be confused with the other songs. What a compliment to the band who works hard at creating a unique and high quality sound profile. In addition to electric and acoustic guitars, you will hear plenty of slide, drums, the five gallon bucket, washboard and harmonica.
This band proves that you do not need a lot of expensive equipment to play with precision and energy. And you sure don’t need it to create a big, big sound. That goes for recording as well. I would be willing to bet that this album was recorded with each song only requiring one or two takes. They just hit the record button and play. And the results are fantastic. They have managed to capture that great live energy on a studio album. It sounds easy to do, but it isn’t. The band is so tight that they make it sound easy.
Besides Reverend Peyton singing and playing both lead and bass guitar simultaneously, you have the great “Washboard” Breezy “The Miss Elizabeth of Country Blues” Peyton on washboard and backing vocals. Her washboard playing is second to none and she has been described as the best percussion player in rock and roll. High praise, indeed, but she earned that title. To watch her doing it live is something magical. Rounding out this trio is Max Senteney on the drums. As mentioned previously, his drum kit includes the ubiquitous plastic five gallon bucket as the focal piece.
There are 11 tracks with not a bad one in the bunch. I think a good place to start on this release is at the beginning with Ways And Means. This opener was the first single off the album and a great ice breaker. It sets the tone for the rest of the fine songs on this collection. “I got all the ways, I just ain’t got the means”, which is the main line of the chorus speaks volumes about Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and society in general. Sometimes it’s okay to admit that having an unlimited supply of money and resources isn’t necessarily a good thing. This band makes the most out of any opportunity and uses what they have, instead of making excuses. We should all take a lesson or two out of the band’s playbook.
The start of the album is very high energy and frenetic and that’s the way it ends. Come Down Angels is the closer and contains more energy than bananas, fatty fish, sweet potatoes, and brown rice combined. This is pure Delta blues and gospel straight out of 1940. It will make you dance. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Whether it’s the first note or the tenth note, rest assured the leg shaking and body gyrating will start, so be prepared. The slide riffs start out rather slow but quickly evolve into a tempo with breakneck speed. Don’t worry though, this band is full of professionals and they are well within their abilities to handle such a fast pace. The backing vocals are also something very special.
Although not as fast as some of the other numbers, Dirty Hustlin’ is a standout. The slide riffs are absolutely spectacular and played with the utmost precision. Although the tempo is a bit subdued, this song a has a groove and a vibe that will leave you with that “I want more” feeling. Good thing another play is only a click away or a repositioning of the stylus. I don’t know how they make music so beautiful and on their tenth album, no less. It just works and seems to get better with each release. And that is something you can’t say about a lot of artists. But you can with Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band!
Listen to Dance Songs For Hard Times here
Buy Dance Songs For Hard Times here