A lot of folks will tell you that Robert Johnson was the King of the Delta Blues. But for god’s sake don’t say it in front of Reverend Peyton.
The guitar-wielding leader of The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has no problem praising Johnson and his incredible body of work. “But there’s only one King of the Delta Blues, and his name was Charley Patton,” Peyton said. “I’ll go toe-to-toe with anyone who says different.” This summer Peyton and his band will release a powerful tribute to their hero in the form of Peyton on Patton. The 13-track CD will exclusively feature songs written and recorded by Patton during his brief recording career, which came to an end upon his premature death in 1934. Peyton on Patton will be released July 19 by SideOneDummy Records.
During his lifetime and for nearly a quarter of a century afterward, Charley Patton was regarded almost universally as the preeminent Delta bluesman. He spent his formative years at Dockery Plantation near Ruleville, Mississippi, where he influenced future blues and gospel stars including the aforementioned Robert Johnson, as well as Son House, Willie Brown, Pops Staples, John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf. His flamboyant performance style was widely emulated and his songs frequently covered. During a five-year period, Patton recorded nearly 60 songs for Paramount Records.
The new CD Peyton on Patton features a number of Patton’s best-loved blues songs including “A Spoonful Blues,” “Mississippi Boweavil Blues” and “Tom Rushen Blues,” as well as Patton-penned spirituals like “Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker,” “Prayer of Death, Part 1” and “You’re Gonna Need Someone (When You Come to Die)”. The CD also includes three radically different versions of “Some of These Days I’ll Be Gone” featuring varying instrumentation and recorded in different keys and arrangements.
“We set out to do this as right as we could,” Peyton said. “I am a songwriter and an artist, but for this I wanted to stay as true to Charley’s music as I could. We recorded the entire record in one day with one microphone, the same way Charley’s first recordings were done.”
Although Patton sometimes recorded with other musicians, Rev. Peyton regards his hero’s solo recordings as his best. For that reason, the Peyton on Patton CD is a largely solo affair with Reverend Peyton’s growling vocals and searing guitar work placed front and center. But while the rest of the Big Damn Band are used sparingly, they make a number of crucial contributions to the record. Washboard Breezy – wife of Reverend Peyton – contributes washboard percussion on just a couple of tracks, but her vocals on “Elder Greene Blues” are a highlight of the disc. Aaron “Cuz” Persinger, whose thundering drums are a mainstay of the band’s live shows, here plays in a starkly different manner, drumming with just his hands on a century-old tobacco barrel.
The starkness of the record may come as a surprise to some of the band’s more casual fans who know them only from their high-octane live shows, particularly their Warped Tour performances where they shared bills with some of today’s top punk acts.
But longtime fans of Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band are well aware of their profound devotion to rural blues in general and Charley Patton in particular. “When I first heard Charley Patton, my life was changed forever. I was hooked,” Peyton said. “I have spent a lifetime admiring and studying his music. I have mentioned his name in interviews and I always have credited him as a big influence on my music.”
Over the years, Peyton and his band have become mainstays in the Mississippi Delta, performing frequently at festivals and clubs in the region and visiting the historic sites associated with Patton and his peers. Those experiences have only served to enhance Peyton’s desire to pay tribute to the true King of the Delta Blues.
“This is a very personal record for me. Most of the songs are just me and a guitar, paying tribute to a hero,” Peyton concluded. “It’s as it should be: Just Peyton on Patton.”
Peyton on Patton is the sixth release from The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and their third for SideOneDummy Records.