drivin n cryin / Drivin' n' Cryin'
Back in 1985, the Atlanta scene was experiencing a revolution as alternative music assaulted the mainstream. Amid the excitement, Kevn Kinney moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta, Georgia. There, working in a sewage treatment plant by day, he performed folk gigs at night. At the same time, one of the more popular local bands was a mod punk outfit called The Nightporters, which included bassist Tim Nielsen.
Nielsen was actually a fellow Midwesterner. Hailing from Minneapolis, he'd moved to Atlanta as a teenager. His love of Hank Williams and The Clash, for whom the Nightporters once opened, and Kinney's love of Bob Dylan and the Ramones led the two to begin jamming along with the drummer for the Nightporters. Before long they launched drivin n cryin, named after the title of a Kinney song that finally appears on their latest album, and could also be construed as the two directions their music takes. The first gigs were really more of a jam fest, and included other musicians. "We were a nine piece," Kinney recalls, "doing a combination of psychedelic bluegrass, heavy and fuzzy but still folk songs."
Pared down to a power trio, the band took off. drivin n cryin was the first new band to use it Atlanta gig to pay for gas money to get to Athens, the nexus of alternative music at the time. Their independent label debut Scarred but Smarter (1986) was recorded in just three days. The album became a college radio staple and catapulted drivin n cryin from a top local club draw to extensive touring and major label interest. When the original drummer exited, he was replaced by Altanta native Jeff Sullivan, who had drummed for Mr. Crowes Garden, later known as The Black Crowes.
Whisper Tames the Lion (1988) was the band's major label debut on Island Records. At this time, Buren Fowler became an official member of drivin n cryin, formerly the touring rhythm guitarist for R.E.M. Mystery Road (1989) followed, presenting the anthemic "Straight to Hell," and featured a guest appearance by Peter Buck. The band opened for R.E.M. on the arena-sized Green Tour, and toured with Soul Asylum. In the midst of relentless touring, Kinney's first solo album, MacDougal Blues (1990) was released. The recording was produced by Buck, and he road managed Kevn's subsequent acoustic tour.
Drivin n Cryin's fourth album signaled a breakthrough. The gold selling Fly Me Courageous (1991) spawned two videos among MTV's most requested; "Fly Me Courageous" and "Build a Fire." The record was one of the most played albums on Rock radio that year. Touring continued with Neil Young and Sonic Youth, and prompted a live EP and home video, Live on Fire.
Next was the guitar-heavy Smoke (1993). "The album was an over-hyped commercial disappointment," says Kinney. "Yet it was one of the most realistic, albeit painful records the band's ever made." Smoke's "When You Come Back" was heard on the soundtrack to Kalifornia, starring Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis.
Drivin n Cryin toured for the following year, and then took a much-needed sojourn into solo projects. Kinney continued his folk journey on Down Out Law (1994) and Nielsen punked out with Kathleen Turner Overdrive (1994), that band's self-titled album. Nielsen also escaped to his digs in Costa Rica, while Sullivan delved into new technology, and drummed for Toenut on tour, just as they were signed to Mute.
1994 brought drivin n cryin to Geffen/DGC, as Buren Fowler exited, and keyboardist Joey Huffman was borrowed from Soul Asylum. The band enlisted producer John Porter (Smiths, Roxy Music) to record Wrapped in Sky (1995) at The Plant in Sausalito, California. The album was finished in Los Angeles, resulting in a less metallic, more personal recording. drivin n cryin lent their rendition of Robin Trower's "Too Rolling Stoned" produced by and featuring Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes for Capricorn Records' Hempilation album benefiting NORML.
The touring continued through 1995 and most of 1996, as the band played in excess of 200 dates. While they are off, Kevn writes and performs his solo material, and has collected songs for a third album. When asked by Atlanta luminary and longtime friend Clay Harper (The Coolies, Ottoman Empire) to record a couple of songs for release on Harper's 7" label Casino Royale, they were game. Harper's partner in crime is Kosmo Vinyl, a veteran producer and former manager of the Clash and Ian Dury, who was to produce the songs.
"We loved working with Kosmo," Kevn says. "He brought so much energy to the project. Kosmo is one of the greatest old school producers, he knows it's all about coaching the team." Starting off with "Let Lenny B" and "Paid in Full," the single's A-side pays homage to one of Kevn's favorite, often misunderstood 60's character, Lenny Bruce. "Paid in Full" dates back to the early eighties and Kevn's first punk band, The Prosecutors. With these two songs completed, they recorded one more for good measure, another Prosecutors' tune "I've Got a Message." "Three songs turned into five," Kevn laughs. What was planned to be an EP became enough songs for an album. Kevn adds, "I guess we tricked ourselves into making an album."
Recording began in October of 1996, and was completed in May of 1997. The album boasts the first cover song ever found on a drivin n cryin album. John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane" is the first song Kevn learned to play. "I got my first guitar when I was 15, and learned the song from my John Denver Easy Guitar Book," Kevn says. Old friend Peter Buck cowrote "Passing Through" with Kinney, and Michelle Malone provides a spoken word performance on the track.
The album is drivin n cryin and arrived August 26, 1997 on Atlanta's Ichiban International via drivin n cryin's own company, drivin n cryin records. The band has grasped creative control on this recording, one they feel so represents what they are that this seventh album deserves to be self titled. "We must be following the trend of where successful independent films are going," Kevn explains. "I don't know if this is exactly a musical Swingblade, but it is a continuation of the drivin n cryin epic."