Blues Bytes


July/August 2011

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The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
Peyton on Patton
SideOneDummy Records

Reverend Peyton

Over the years, there has been some argument over who really is the King of the Delta Blues. Most fans say that Robert Johnson is the King of the Delta Blues, but there’s a few diehards out there who contend that the crown really belongs to Charley Patton. It’s hard to argue with their contention, because during his lifetime, Patton was the acknowledged king. He was the closest thing to a celebrity on the blues circuit at that time, playing all sorts of gatherings, parties, juke joints. His records were heard all over the South. He was adept at playing blues, popular songs of the time, country and western, and hillbilly. He was a major influence on many of the artists of that time, including Robert Johnson and Son House and later artists like John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf.

Reverend Peyton, of The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, would beg to differ with most fans. Peyton believes that Charley Patton is THE MAN as far as Delta Blues is concerned, and is willing to come to blows to settle the argument. When Peyton started out playing the blues, he fell under the spell of Patton and worked painstakingly to capture the legend’s sound. Now, he has released an incredible tribute album, Peyton on Patton (SideOneDummy Records) in honor of his hero.

Spare, but powerful, the recording mostly features Reverend Peyton solo with his rough-hewn vocals and slashing guitar. His wife, Washboard Breezy, adds washboard percussion on a couple of tracks and backing vocals on one track, "Elder Greene Blues," and drummer Aaron "Cuz" Persinger provides interesting percussion backing......drumming with his hands on an old tobacco barrel.

However, the good Reverend is front and center for the majority of the disc, and he rips through 11 of Patton’s most beloved songs, with a relentless reworking of “Spoonful Blues” and other blues classics, such as “Mississippi Boweavil Blues,” “Tom Rushen Blues,” “Green River Blues,” and “Shake It And Break It.” He also does wondrous versions of some of Patton’s gospel catalog, including “Jesus Is A Dying-Bed Maker,” “Prayer of Death, Part 1,” and “You’re Gonna Need Someone (When You Come To Die).”

There are also three different versions of “Some of These Days I’ll Be Gone”…..decidedly different versions ranging from a straight acoustic version, to an “accelerated” banjo version, to a lovely slide guitar version. Peyton’s fretwork is the highlight of the disc. He shows an amazing amount of versatility. His goal in the making of the disc was to stay as true to the original music as possible. He recorded the album in one day, using one microphone, in an approach similar to the way the original songs were recorded in the late ’20s and early ’30s.

I can’t recommend Peyton on Patton highly enough. It’s a wonderful tribute to an acknowledged master. What lifts this tribute above the regular tribute albums to blues legends that come out regularly is the astonishing passion that Reverend Peyton has for his subject. It’s almost like he’s channeling the spirit of Charley Patton on these recordings. Fortunately, we get the opportunity to listen to the fruit of his labors.

--- Graham Clarke
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