by MIKE CHAIKEN
Country blues is a music genre with deep roots in America. There are scads of now-standard songs from this well-spring of American music.
And most young blues musicians will revisit those classics, paying homage to artists like Robert Johnson, Howling Wolf, and Muddy Waters.
The Rev. Peyton is a walking encyclopedia of the blues. He can cite names that casual listeners of the blues would not have even realized were part of its history.
But in 2018’s album, “Poor Until Payday,” by the Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, despite the preponderance of country blues elements (including its signature of slide guitar, companied by a thumb playing bass notes at the same time as the remaining strings are strummed), there are no cover songs written by the pioneers.
Instead, “Poor Until Payday” finds the Big Damn Band superbly mining the country blues traditions within the framework of their own songwriting.
The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, which includes the Reverend’s wife “Washboard” Breezy Peyton and drummer Max Senteney, is leading the Big Damn Blues Revolution Tour with J.D. Wilkes and Dom Flemons. The tour stops at the Space Ballroom in Hamden on Sunday, Nov. 17.
Peyton, in a phone call from Indiana, said he loves the blues. He especially loves timeless music.
But, Peyton said he doesn’t want to sound like a museum exhibit.
So he mines the timeless sound of his favorite music but offers his own spin to it.
Peyton said he’s trying to show that country blues is not solely a remnant of the past. Country blues can be contemporary.
Peyton said he also writes original music because he wants to write material that reflects his own experiences. He wants to inject the music with honesty.
Peyton said it’s hard to sing the old blues songs with the same conviction as those artists who lived those stories. Son House’s life was Son House’s, he said.
Peyton found his way to the blues through his father… sort of.
Peyton said his father used to listen to a lot of rock and roll artists who were brought up on the blues. He would hear his father playing Johnny Winter, the Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix. And that got Peyton hooked on the blues from a rock and roll direction.
One of the cool aspects of Winter, Hendrix, and the Stones were that they always cited their musical heroes, said Peyton. With that information in hand, Peyton could seek out these artists and learn about the evolution of the blues.
In time, said Peyton, he became obsessed with the history of the blues. He would dive down a “rabbit hole” going further and further back through time.
“From there, there was no turning back,” said Peyton.
In the Big Damn Blues Revolution Tour, Peyton said the three artists on the bill are trying to show fans the many different dimensions of the blues. He said people often think of blues as this singular genre. And typically, when they think the blues, they think Chicago blues. (Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James, for example, were purveyors of the Chicago blues).
But, Peyton, ever the music scholar, said there are many gradations within the typical 12 bars of the genre. There is Piedmont blues, delta blues, Memphis swing, hill country blues, front porch blues and so on.
The three groups that stop into the Space Ballroom will each have their own set during the tour, said Peyton. But the evening will close with the artists teaming up for a blues revue of classic songs.
“I’m sure you’ll hear Charley Patton,” said Peyton, who explained the delta blues musician is considered the foundation of most music heard today. The set also will include “old school” stuff from 1910-20. There also will be some new stuff from all three artists.
“lt will all sound timeless and exciting,” said Peyton “These are really unique shows.”
The Big Damn Blues Revolution Tour with the Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, J.D. Wilkes and Dom Flemons stops at the Space Ballroom, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.
For information, visit SpaceBallroom.com or BigDamnBand.com.