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Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band brings juke joint blues

Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Clap Your Hands"

Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Two Bottles of Wine"

By Bruce Sylvester

There’s a fertile netherworld where post-punk and neo-trad folk spawn together. Last night up in Cambridge, MA, at the Middle East Café in Central Square, The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band took us there on a journey like a runaway train tearing through a bygone America’s heartland.

American country music (though certainly not blues) was originally family music. The bearish reverend, his black-gloved wife Washboard Breezy Peyton (who kinda resembles my image of a young Gladys Presley) on a washboard/cymbal contraption and drummer Aaron “Cuz” Persinger continue that tradition. And we, the Big Damn Fans, became a congregation of the unredeemed as the wide-eyed reverend set us stomping, clapping and shouting to the likes of “Clap Your Hands” (a track on the southern Indiana trio’s new “The Wages” on Side One Dummy).

Sometimes the reverend’s sharp-toned slide guitar seemed to channel Mississippi Fred McDowell. At one point, he switched over to a three-stringed guitar a fan in Nashville made from a cigar box. His picking dexterity – and mental dexterity too – were abundantly evident when he simultaneously picked “Dixie” and “Yankee Doodle” on different strings.

The virtues in the reverend’s songs dig into the heart of the American spirit. And so do the vices.