The Reverend Peyton’s
Big Damn Band

by Bill Weaver
photo by Scott Toepfer

“There aren’t many places a guy like me fits in,” laughs the Reverend Josh Peyton about why he lives in Brown County. “I can make home base anywhere—my work is on the road traveling and making records. What I love about Brown County is that it’s all the good things about southern Indiana rolled up into one place.”

Known for powerful live performances, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band features Peyton on guitar and vocals, wife Breezy on washboard and backing vocals, and Aaron ‘Cuz’ Persinger on drums, recasting American country blues in a way that attracts young listeners while pleasing aficionados of early blues masters like Charlie Patton, Furry Lewis, and Bukka White.

“I just try to be myself and play good, honest, real music,” Peyton says. “Our audiences tend to be—compared to other blues or roots bands—a lot younger, but they’re really diverse—like a punk-rock kid with blue hair sitting next to an old 78 rpm record collector—and everything in between, from people wearing Johnny Cash and Ramones t-shirts to housewives. One day we’re playing a theater and the next day a rock club and then a folk festival in Canada and then a biker fest in South Dakota. It keeps it interesting. I’d be bored if we were in a regular old country band playing honky-tonks every night.”

Nevertheless, 250 nights a year on the road takes its toll on a band. “A lot of people don’t realize how hard it to travel around and be away from home and family,” Peyton says. “I do it because I love it—I love making music, I love meeting people, I love traveling, I love the whole deal. It’s worth the hardship for me because I love it so much, but it’s nice being able to come home.

“I went through a phase when I didn’t care if we were ever home,” he confesses, “but the older I get the more I love being home, too. You think of all the places that we go and all the countries that we play in, but I end up writing more songs about Brown County than anything else.”

Songs like Brown County Bound and Big Blue Chevy ’72 on their latest album “Between the Ditches,” which debuted at the top of the iTunes Blues Album Chart. The music video for their song Something for Nothing was shot in Brown County and Devils Look Like Angels was filmed in nearby Bloomington.

Peyton’s family roots are deep in Jackson County, but he grew up in Eagletown, north of Indianapolis. “Brown County is like those places were years ago,” he says. “Rural culture in America is dying out, but it’s alive and well here.

“I love the history of Brown County and all southern Indiana. I think it’s a very unique place to live, an awesome subculture. I’ve argued this with a buddy of mine from the Ozarks. I said, ‘Man, people have heard of the Ozarks. They have no idea what goes on in southern Indiana!’ They don’t know what we’ve got going on here and they don’t understand the culture or the way we live.

“There are tons of artists and musicians in Brown County,” he adds laughing, “and most of them know how to skin a deer!”

Roots music is, at heart, about community and about family. The core of community for the Big Damn Band is southern Indiana. “It means a lot to me—when we play a show close to home and I see a lot of folks I know come out. It means a lot to me to know that the people at home appreciate the music that we do.”

This drives him to make every album better than the last one, every show the best that it can be, which is one reason why audiences respond so enthusiastically to the band. “Apart from that there’s not much more you can do,” he shrugs.

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band will end the winter touring Canada before welcoming spring in Texas, the Midwest, and Europe with their Big Damn Blues Revolution Tour. They’ll pass through Bloomington at the Bluebird on April 5 and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis on June 1st. You can find an itinerary of the tour at <www.bigdamnband.com> and follow their adventures through Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, and be sure to have a look at their YouTube channel <www.youtube.com/user/ReverendPeyton>.

“If I wasn’t able to do this tomorrow,” Peyton says, “I would just hope that people would remember that we always played music that we are proud of, tried to stay true to who we were, and tried to stay true to our Hoosier roots.”