The Luna Lounge is a nice square venue with high ceilings and a wide stage. It was the perfect venue for the celebration of o’death’s album “Head Home,” re-released on Ernest Jenning Records, a NY label. Joining them for the festivities was the opener Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band from Indiana. This was the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s first venture to New York, and they said they were a little apprehensive. Well, they were welcomed with open arms, cheers, laughter, and a very heartfelt and enthusiastic encore. The band performed a rip-roaring set of Mississippi Delta blues, catapulting that genre to exemplary levels.
The Reverend Peyton bought three beautiful vintage acoustics for the stage. He fingerpicks and slides simultaneously and uses unusual strumming patterns to create melody and bass drive while singing joyously. He is a guitar virtuoso. It was a joy to watch him smile as he played the guitar as close to his face and ears as possible to hear the beauty of his favorite friend.
Reverend Peyton is a big burly, bearded man with a broad voice. Joining him on the stage was his wife, Washboard Breezy Peyton. Wearing special gloves to hold her metal picks to strum. The washboard provided wonderful zing to the percussion. She is buxom, and her stage presence is refreshingly different. Let's just say her formidable chest size moves with each strum of the washboard, and her facial expressions are animated. Jayme Peyton, the Reverend’s brother, kept the forceful high tin beat with just a snare drum.
The stories in-between song selection was a hoot. Introducing the song “My Cousin’s On Cops” was a great story and a true one. The song got the attention of the Jerry Springer show, and the Big Damn Band was asked to perform it on the show. They, unfortunately, couldn't play that song on air because “Cops” was on a competing network in that time slot. But we heard it in all its glory. Taking out a new guitar, he stated, “I got to warm up the guitar,” which he did immediately. We were also treated to a song about his drunken father, “My Old Man Boogie,” the awesome “Train Song,” a gospel number, and ending, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” a cover protest song Fantastic.
O’death took the stage and the band played through an exhilarating, dynamic sixteen-song set. Leaving the audience in a state of euphoria and then exhaustion. During the set, the audience became enthralled in a ritualistic dance, their bodies limber and letting go completely to the rollicking, kick-ass, and thunderous bluegrass and velocity-driven Appalachian mountain music.
This band is not genre specific. To expand their music, they explore various distinct genres, then edit to synthesize. It has familiar qualities. There are distinct connections to folk roots from eastern European cultures and classic connections like The Band and Neil Young. The recognizable sounds, mixed with the unexpected, create a discourse between the music, past to present. They combine the guitar, bass, banjo, drum, fiddle, and French horn by Dan Sagar, along with the unique vocal styling of Gregory Jamie.
The sound was not deafening and not overbearing like punk or rock that, sometimes sacrifices the voices and instruments for effect. o'death’s sound was loud, but I could still hear the subtlety of the instruments. The drummer David Rogers-Berry is beyond animated. Driving the rhythms to levels of velocity that ebb and flow unexpectedly. The fiddle player Bob Pycior is also the driving force of sound and percussion. His playing is uniquely varied from classical sweeping vignettes to countrified fiddling, with fast and furious bowing that breaks mock speed. The set started with “Down To Rest,” with a banjo intro by Gabe Darling. The entire audience participated in singing / OH BABY / down to rest /. During the song “O Lee O” Gregory Jamie rose from his seat to speak in tongues, making strange garbled sounds. “Only Daughter” was spectacular live. “Adelita,” featuring fiddle, was aided by the audience singing /head home / head home /. Their voices rose like a chanting chorus. Jamie Gregory’s voice is always upfront, but the unison of all the voices added depth and intensity to the live performance.
I loved the unreleased song they played toward the middle of the set. It started with slow polka timing emphasizing the bass playing of Jessie Newman and highlighting the classical rendering of the fiddle. Without warning, the band played so fast. Beyond fast. It was at that point I lost it. When the song was over, I had to hold on to the edge of the stage to regain my equilibrium. By the thirteenth song, the audience negotiated a three-song encore ending with Rise UP, a big friendly finale. The band stood clapping, chanting, and basically thanking the audience and well-wishers for coming to their CD release show.
This is the kind of band that can go beyond the song. I feel the musicianship could be taken to a level of improvisation, o'death could handle this challenge successfully. I don’t mean a jam band experience, but more of an artistic expression. They could explore live their avant-garde wanderings, almost like an outsider artist whose vision has to be realized.
Ernest Jenning Records(US)
free daytrotter sessions of o'deat