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Peyton sharpened by life on the road

“So Delicious,” the eighth album by Indiana country blues act The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, sees the group keeping some interesting company. It was released in January by Yazoo Records, home to great blues and country acts like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charlie Blake and Ma Rainey.

It’s interesting because most of Yazoos acts have been dead for centuries. It’s a reissue label, with Peyton’s “So Delicious” being Yazoo’s first album by a contemporary artist.

“They weren’t really on our radar as far as possible labels to release our record, but it made so much sense to us,” Peyton said during a phone interview. “They seemed like they believed in it and understood what we were all about.”

Peyton said the first albums he owned as a kid were Yazoo releases. The three-piece band (which includes his wife, Breezy, on washboard) plays with decades-old instruments (with the occasional reproduction) and records with old mics and equipment. But they’re not a retro band. Peyton is trying to make timeless music that works just as well on a playlist with Memphis Jug Band as it would with Jay-Z.

“Blues is just absolutely riddled with cliches in the modern era. Country is, too,” Peyton said. “I’m committed to avoiding that. The best way is to write music that is more personal. If I lived it first hand, if it’s real, it can’t be a cliche.”

The first song on “So Delicious,” “Let’s Jump a Train,” isn’t literally about Peyton jumping freight trains, but it does draw from experience. A few years back Peyton and Breezy sold everything. They weren’t riding the rails to their shows, but they did take to the road in a junk van, struggling to make enough for gas to the next gig.

Those early days also made the band take pretty much any show available. The Big Damn Band isn’t playing in a genre that’s especially popular at the moment, so they were on bills where there was an opening. Their biggest Des Moines show to date was at the 2011 80/35 Music Festival.

“Every show was vital toward feeding ourselves when we started off. We were busking and playing in punk clubs to nobody,” Peyton said. “We threw ourselves into the pool and it was sink or swim. It sounds like I’m being overly dramatic, but we literally had no home. If we didn’t sell any CDs, we didn’t get to eat. That sharpens you.”

Anyone who saw Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band at 80/35 might not recognize them today. Peyton and Breezy have both lost weight, with Peyton still being big, but looking more like a 1950s’ strong man than his earlier rotund appearance. Peyton said it came from making smarter choices on the road, but also from being personally driven.

“I’ve tried to learn as much as I can over the years about myself, food, music, everything. I’m constantly trying to learn and test myself in every way. Breezy says I can’t be satisfied about anything. It’s true, I really can’t. Nothing is ever quite right, it’s always got to be better. I always feel like my best is ahead, not behind. That’s the best place to be as an artist. As soon as your best is backward, it’s over.”

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gas Lamp, 1501 Grand Ave.

Cost: $10 in advance, $15 at the door.