Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
29th May 2015
Regulars visitors to the club over the years; Monkey Junk opened with Bukka White’s Aberdeen; and three songs later the fulsome figured and magnificently bearded singer, John Nellist managed to shut up the chattering classes with a foot-stomping Walking Blues.
While some of their songs are 100 years old; they were still relatively unknown to the majority of the audience who listened intently as Nellist’s voice seamlessly slid through the octaves and Andy Turnbull gave a master class in acoustic guitar playing.
If I had £1 for every version of Shake Your Moneymaker I’d heard over the years; I’d be a wealthy man. But this duo stripped it right back to the sinew and made it sound very dirty indeed; and it was the a similar story with their raw take on Willie Dixon’s Mojo Working that featured a passionate call and response with the audience.
I first discovered Delta Blues in my twenties; and Monkey Junk rekindled that same fire four or five years ago when I first saw them at SummerTyne 2011. Their ‘sound’ has subsequently evolved into something so authentic that if you’d closed your eyes tonight you’d have sworn you were in a Clarksdale Jump Joint and not a hipster bar in North East England.
The Cluny was already as full as I’ve seen it in a couple of years, as the stage was set for the head-liners; but the crowd parted like the Red Sea as two guys in wheelchairs made their way to the front; which meant I had to photograph and review in a disabled area; which was a first for me.
Tonight was the Big Damn Band’s third visit to Newcastle; and the audience; was a bizarre mix of Rockabillys, bearded hipsters, skinheads, students and even a couple of hippies in tie-dye t-shirts and the collective roar that greeted the trio would normally be reserved for a young Rock band!
With Breezy resplendent in a black cardigan, bright red party frock, red cowboy boots and black n white polka dot tights to compliment the Reverend’s more sober black T-shirt and baggy jeans look the band nearly took the roof off with the Train Song from the Wages album which opened the show and it was somehow onwards and upwards from there on in.
Next up was the raucous Something for Nothing, which most bands would use as an encore; but the Big Damn Band have such a strong back catalogue of Roadhouse stompers and Country Rockers they can play hard and fast with their play book.
The Reverend is a pretty mean guitar player; and used six different instruments during the gig, including a cigar-box model which he made squall on Easy Come – Easy Go early on and later his Dobro playing was sublime.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear several people around me singing along (if you can call it singing) to songs from the new album; especially on Let’s Jump a Train, which had Breezy scraping her washboard so furiously I swear I saw sparks coming from her metal finger picks.
Later as the Reverend introduced Dirt as being a very ‘Heavy Blues song’ Breezy slowly and seductively removed her cardigan; much to the visible delight of several men at the front of the stage. Somehow the song itself had a deep Bass thread running through it; but they don’t use a bass guitar – it was all the Reverend’s thumb and ‘Bird Dog’ Bussell on the drums.
More new songs came and each one was greeted with a roar of approval as soon as it was recognised by the knowledgeable fans.
By half way through my notes became almost unreadable; as 4 or 5 blokes who were body-slamming were becoming increasingly annoying; but I still managed to scribble that the slide playing on We Live Dangerous was ‘bloody brilliant’ and Front Porch Trained the ‘slide was 100mph;’ and my memory tells me both statements were true.
Thankfully by the time we got to Clap Your Hands; with choreographed clapping, the body-slammers had run out of adrenaline and were contenting themselves with playful punches (obviously not hard enough!).
Eventually things had to slow down and the Reverend regaled us with a down-home version of I Shall Not Be Moved; but even this song took on a head of steam by the end. This band doesn’t do subtle very well.
For a trio this band sure kick up a racket; as Raise a Little Hell which was full of crunching guitar licks and hip-hop washboard (I think?) and their crowd sing-along You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover (dedicated to the writer Willie Dixon) proved.
The Reverend is every inch the showman; but even he was taken aback when he said something about the next night of the tour being in Manchester and the crowd responded as one with a resounding Booooo! He then said the next stop would be Cardiff – same response! “Is this a soccerball thang?” He asked as he screwed up his face. It sure was. He then started calling out the rest of the itinery and in pantomime fashion each town was booed; much to their amusement until Breezy called out “Cincinnati?” Which received a cheer; and the show moved rapidly to a raucous end with the brilliant Music and Friends from So Delicious and again 400 fans sang the chorus with relish as both the Reverend and Breezy respectively did the splits during their solo spots.
The band left the stage; counted to 5 and returned to end the night with two Big Damn Band favourites – Mamma’s Fried Potatoes and Two Bottles of Wine.
What a night! What a band” Come back soon y’all.