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Keeping it Real: Reverend Peyton on wood, steel, CCR, country blues and his Big Damn Band 

click to enlarge The pig plays bass....sometimes.
  • The pig plays bass....sometimes.
The pig plays bass....sometimes.The Reverend Peyton likes to keep it real, and not in the vague hip-hop sort of way.

As the namesake and leader of The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, a family collective that includes brother Jayme on drums and wife Breezy on washboard while he plays fingerstyle guitar, Peyton wears suspenders, a massive beard, claims that Credence Clearwater Revival is the greatest rock band of all time and shies away from much of the cutting-edge technology that surrounds today's music business. But his band's upbeat country blues has won over crowds at both punk clubs and hippie festivals over the past couple of years, and through endless months on the road, the rural Indiana pickers have kept it real.

"There's so much in this world that's fake and plastic, from margarine to social networking sites, it's all just really impersonal. I just like things that are made out of wood and steel, sweat and blood - that's what I'm all about," says Peyton in his baritone drawl, trucking through East Colorado as part of a tour that keeps them on the road through mid-September.

Still in their 20s but with a sound reminiscent of jam sessions on back porches built long before they were born, all the Peytons still live in Brown County, Indiana, a rural area that's home to 15,000 some residents, which includes several pickers. Of the area, Peyton jokes, "On the street we live on now, I think you have to have a five-string banjo to live there. It's a rule."

Given his penchant for "wood and steel," Peyton's fingerstyle country blues guitar playing might seem natural. A longtime guitarist, he didn't pick up the skill, however, until injuring his hand and giving up guitar for a bit. After surgery he found he could suddenly not only play guitar again, but could actually play fingerstyle, which has since become the trademark sound and only melodic instrument in the Big Damn Band.

"I never could do it until I had the problems with my hand and then something clicked. I couldn't explain it, but before then, the fingerstyle stuff alluded me," he says.

With his seemingly immaculately conceived fingerstyle mastery under his belt, Peyton adds vicious licks to the surging rhythms provided by his wife and brother. The result is country blues that's as raucous as punk rock but as technically advanced as bluegrass. The band's organic song structures bring them to a vast audience of roots music fans and their nearly unrivaled live energy allows them to, for example, play the traveling punk rock summer camp known as the Vans Warped Tour, as they will next month.

"Early on, I wasn't sure who'd care about this. Then it just started happening out of our hands in a way. We started realizing that we could play a hippie fest or a roots fest or a punk fest or a blues fest or a rock club or a listening room," says Peyton.

The band's appeal has hardly been without effort. Over the past half decade, they've put out a steady string of albums and EPs, highlighted by last summer's The Whole Fam Damnily, a record that accurately captures the insanity of the band's live show and gritty roots. They've also toured almost non-stop for the past several years, including a European jaunt this spring during which they were robbed in London. The bandits made off with some gear as well as Peyton's beloved songwriting book and all his clothes.

"For two and a half weeks I wore the same thing every day, just washed it in the sink at night with a bar of soap and put it on the very next day," says Peyton.

Now that's real.

The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
8pm doors, 9pm show Tuesday, July 21. Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. $12. All ages.


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