Drivin’ N’ Cryin’
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ (DNC) emerged from the Atlanta rock scene in the mid 1980s. Bands like R.E.M, Mr. Crowe’s Garden (later known as The Black Crowes), Indigo Girls, and Georgia Satellites were defining a new sound for southern rock. Kevn Kinney, a recently converted folk musician, moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1982 to pursue his folk passion. Kinney had grown up playing in punk bands in Milwaukee until he happened to see D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary about Bob Dylan. Kinney hooked up with then-Nightporters’ bassist Tim Nielsen and drummer Paul Lenz. They played together and found Kinney’s folk blended well with Nielsen and Lenz’s punk drive. The band’s name developed from Nielsen and Lenz’s rock drivin’ sound and Kinney’s cryin’ folk music roots.
In 1986, the band released their first record titled Scarred But Smarter on the popular rock club turned indie label 688 Records. The album was praised by critics for its folk sensibilities of working-class life and Nielsen and Lenz’s fresh hard-rocking support. The album received frequent college radio play and the band went on tour to support the release. Lenz left the band because of some unresolved conflicts with his band mates. The band enlisted Mr. Crowe’s Garden drummer Jeff Sullivan to replace Lenz.
With the new lineup the band went into the studio to record their second album, Whisper Tames The Lion, on Island Records, which was released in 1987. DNC maintained a busy tour schedule to support their latest release and help increase their grass roots support. The aptly named Whisper Tames The Lion is a blend of rocking tracks and Kinney’s working-class folk songs. DNC friend Buren Fowler, R.E.M.’s journeyman rhythm guitarist, joined the band frequently while touring. DNC later convinced Fowler to join the band full time and help with their next studio release.
Mystery Road, the band’s third album, was released in 1989 on Island Records. The album produced some of DNC’s classic tunes like the Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque “Honeysuckle Blue” and the hard-rocking anthem “Straight To Hell.” R.E.M. guitarist and DNC fan Peter Buck was a guest musician on some of the album’s tracks. Later in the summer DNC was the opening act for R.E.M.’s Green tour. The band received its greatest exposure to date while touring with R.E.M.
Kinney invited Buck into the studio to help him produce his first solo record and satisfy his folk roots. MacDougal Blues was the result of Kinney and Buck’s partnership and was released in 1990 on Island. The duo went on tour to promote MacDougal Blues, playing smaller college and club circuits. Kinney felt that he would waste DNC’s time by adding too many of his folk song tracks and needed the solo project to fulfill his musical output.
In late summer of 1990, DNC were back in the studio to record Fly Me Courageous, the group’s fourth album and second Island release; it became the group’s breakout album. Geoff Workman, who had worked with bands such as Queen and The Cars, produced the album. The band’s album got full commercial exposure as videos for the songs “Fly Me Courageous” and “Build A Fire” received frequent airtime on MTV. “Fly Me Courageous” also received heavy play on college radio stations across the country. The album became their most commercially successful release to date, yet it did not hit the 100,000 sales mark of a gold record. DNC toured feverishly and frequently played to sold-out shows in larger venues across the country. They performed with Neil Young and Sonic Youth in the spring and Living Colour and Lynyrd Skynyrd later in the year.
DNC again enlisted producer Workman for the band’s 1993 release, Smoke. The album did not live up to the promise of their earlier work, neither commercially nor in the view of some critics and even a few DNC fans. The album’s songs shared more with the big-hair-metal band scene than their previous folk and original southern rock sound. They went on tour in 1993 with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company. DNC fans were confused as the band’s taste seemed to have stretched toward spandex. The band managed to draw attention from fans of heavy metal with their power riffs and touring mates. Once again the band was able to show their varied musical range gathering fans from folk, rock & roll, punk, and heavy metal.
Kinney needed to quickly put the album Smoke behind him. “The album was an over-hyped, commercial disappointment,”
Members include Buren Fowler (left band 1994), guitar; Joey Huffman (joined band 1994), keyboards; Kevn Kinney (joined band 1985), guitar, vocals; Paul Lenz (left band 1987), drums; Tim Nielsen (joined band 1985), bass, mandolin; Jeff Sullivan (joined band 1987), drums.
Formed in Atlanta, Georgia, 1985; released debut album Scarred But Smarter on 688 Records, signed with Island, Scarred But Smarter reissued, 1986; released Whisper Tames the Lion, 1987; released Mystery Road, 1989; released Fly Me Courageous, 1991; released Smoke, 1993; released Wrapped in Sky, 1995; released driuin n cryin, 1997; released The Essential Live Drivin N Cryin, 1999; released Ultimate Collection, 2000.
Addresses: Record company —Hip-O Records, 2220 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404, website: http:///www.hip-o.com. Website — http://www.drivinncryin.com.
Kinney told Chris Canada of The Daily Beacon. “Yet it was one of the most realistic, albeit painful, records the band’s ever made.” Kinney and his bandmates knew they needed to again capture that wonderful balance of “drivin’ n’ cryin’.” Kinney would later tell Richard Skanse of Rolling Stone that the album was the result of “a nervous breakdown live,” from the pressure to quickly produce a new album.
While on tour, the band made time to play acoustic sets at gigs with Vic Chestnut and Chestnut’s producer, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. It was at these more personal concerts that the band seemed to shine and draw a more thoughtful sound. While DNC was selling out arenas, they never reached that multi-million album commercial success that would prevent them from playing in the club circuit or playing something new. They could never be accused of selling out for commercial profits or to please any single group of fans.
While DNC toured, all the band members found time to work on solo projects. Nielson put together his own project, Kathleen Turner Overdrive (KTO). Nielson enlisted his former Niteporter bandmate Ray Dafrico as the band frontman. Malcolm Carter from the respected underground band Shadow Puppets played guitar. KTO remains a side project for Nielson and has developed into a popular underground band. KTO received a boost from the 2000 film High Fidelity when they were mentioned as the band that Jack Black’s character forms for a gig at the end of the film.
Kinney was also busy outside of DNC working on another solo album, Down Out Law, which was released in 1994 on Mammoth Records. His second solo release provided a few tracks of previous DNC tunes with Kinney’s more understated folk styling. The combination of Kinney’s Down Out Law solo album and Neilson’s KTO project could not provide a better example of the musical contrast that is at the heart of DNC’s music.
When DNC regrouped later in 1994 after members returned from their various projects, it was decided they needed to get away from the heavy guitar riffs of Smoke. Fowler had started a band called The Lonely White Boys in Athens, Georgia. It was decided the Fowler would leave DNC to allow the band to develop in another direction. The band felt they still needed a fifth member to complete their lineup and chose keyboardist Joey Huffman. Huffman had played the keyboards with Keith Richards and Soul Asylum. DNC again went on the road, playing smaller club venues to further develop their music with addition of keyboards. DNC signed with Geffen Records in 1994 for their next release.
With a new label and new DNC lineup, the band was ready to go back to the studio and produce their next album. The band recorded their Geffen Records debut at The Plant recording studio. Producer John Porter, who had worked with Roxy Music, Billy Bragg, and The Smiths, went into the studio with the band to help develop their latest musical urges. The result of their efforts was the 1995 release Wrapped In Sky. The album was a return to the cryin’ side of the band’s musical realm with a bit of Latino sound with “Pura Vida” and “Senorita Louise.” The band’s trips to Costa Rica had provided the Latino influence in their latest work. Buck returned to perform on some of the album’s tracks.
After two years of touring and playing gigs in all types and sizes of venues, the band was again ready to go into the studio to record their seventh album. The band had a renewed energy from being on the road. DNC had reconnected with their fans and were playing at the top of their form. London’s Stiff Records alum Kosmo Vinyl was at the production controls of Casino Studios in Atlanta for the band’s self-titled 1997 release on Drivin N Cryin Records. On the eleventh track they provided their own rocking version of John Denver’s “Jet Plane.” It was their first cover song but they made the song all their own. Kinney sang an R.E.M.-type tribute to comedian Lenny Bruce on the album’s sixth track “Let Lenny B.”
Two collections, The Essential Live Drivin N Cryin, released on Drivin N Cryin Records in 1999, and The Ultimate Collection, released on Hip-O Records in 2000, provide a wonderful summary of the band’s work over the years. Kinney’s liner notes on The Ultimate Collection provide a good explanation for the band’s varied styles: “Part of our philosophy when we started was that this was a band with as many different styles as your record collection. Like when you’d put together songs on a tape to listen to while you’re on the road.”
Scarred But Smarter, 688 Records, 1986; reissued, Island, 1986.
Whisper Tames the Lion, Island, 1987.
Mystery Road, Island, 1989.
Fly Me Courageous, Island, 1991.
Smoke, Island, 1993.
Wrapped in Sky, Geffen, 1995.
drivin n cryin, Drivin N Cryin Records, 1997.
The Essential Live Drivin N Cryin, Drivin N Cryin Records, 1999.
The Ultimate Collection, Hip-O Records, 2000.
Kevn Kinney solo
MacDougal Blues, Island, 1990.
Down Out Law, Mammoth, 1994.
The Flower and The Knife, Capricorn, 2000.
Rolling Stone, May 16, 2000.
The Daily Beacon, February 27, 1998.
Audio Ideas Guide, http://www.audio-ideas.com/reviews/cd-reviews/drivin-n-crying.html (December 20, 2000).
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ website, http://www.drivinncryin.com (December 20, 2000).
Flagpole Magazine, http://www.flagpole.com/issues/08.20.97/reviews.html (December 20, 2000).
General Music LLC, http://home5.swipnet.se/w-55738/sromdriv.htm (December 20, 2000).
Kevn Kinney website, http://www.kevnkinney.com (De-cem-ber 20, 2000).
MTV Online, http://www.mtv.com/mtv/music/reviews/drivin_n_cryin_00.html (December 20, 2000).
Performer Mag, http://www.performermag.com/sepcover.shtml (December 20, 2000).
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