Review: 'Between the Ditches,' The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band 

click to enlarge 'Between The Ditches' - SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
Between the Ditches
SideOneDummy Records


Josh “The Reverend” Peyton’s story is almost like something out of a superhero comic. He wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider, but a debilitating hand injury later corrected by surgery gave him the ability to play the finger-style picking on his guitar, just like hero Charlie Patton.

The Eagletown, Ind., has used the technique to increasingly greater success over the years. As The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (with wife “Washboard” Breezy and distant cousin Aaron “Cuz” Persinger on drums), the trio has built a reputation for fervent live shows that are translated in their recordings.

On fifth album Between the Ditches, they eschew the one-take approach for a more carefully-crafted collection of Delta Blues. There are still plenty of songs, like “Something for Nothing,” that stomp like a backwoodsier Black Keys, but it’s more controlled, and Peyton doesn’t come off like an amphetamined Moses trying to split Mount Sinai.

These 14 compositions are more cultivated and singular. “Devil’s Look Like Angel’s” is a mid-tempo and, dare I say, conventional ramble that sets the table for some fine bluesy plucks on Peyton’s archaic gear. The harmonica runs on “The Money Goes” make it custom-built for a rowdy night at the roadhouse.

That’s not to say the Big Damn Band is toning down its outback brio. “Shut the Screen” is reminiscent of the Peyton sound, and with the virtuosic skills to sound like multiple players simultaneously (especially pronounced on “I Don’t Know”), why not?

Peyton’s lyrics have always reflected pride in his roots, but there’s also maturity there. “We’ll Get Through” — with the lines “if it’s me with you / then we’ll get through — is one of his most sentimental songs yet. “Shake ’em Off Like Fleas” is a rustic diatribe against corporate crooks and “Don’t Grind it Down,” with its flamenco touches, rails against strip mining.

He hasn’t forgotten the humor though. On “Big Blue Chevy ’72,” the sentimentality is for a muscle car that “they just don’t make ’em like this anymore.” Having developed a reputation as road warriors, “Brokedown Everywhere” is a lighthearted recap of places where they’ve had car troubles (“You’ve been everywhere / I’ve been broke down there, and three times in Tennessee”).

While improvisation and spontaneity are essential in art, it doesn’t hurt to take one’s time either. Between the Ditches is testament to that. It’s some of Peyton’s most accomplished work to date. The band plays Aug. 7 at Indy CD & Vinyl and Aug. 11 at the Indiana State Fair.

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