Drivin’ N’ Cryin’



Plowboy Records to release vinyl collection on May 12. ATLANTA, GA. — “We do what we do because we’re still just kids in the treehouse having fun,” Kevn Kinney says of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, the band that he’s led through 30 years of ups and downs and more than a dozen albums’ worth of transcendent rock ’n’ roll. “I’m a Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ fan, and I make these records to give myself something to listen to, in the same way that people who make moonshine make it because they like to drink it.”

Over the past three decades, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ has maintained an unpredictable yet reliably iconoclastic musical course, while commanding the loyalty of a fiercely devoted fan base that continues to pack the band’s live shows, particularly in and around the group’s home base of Atlanta.

The audacious combination of blazing, infectious rock ’n’ roll and thoughtful introspection that’s always characterized Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s recorded output is prominent throughout the band’s new vinyl release, Best of Songs. The ten-song LP, housed in a sleeve whose cover art replicates the vibe of a well-worn ’70s-vintage K-tel greatest-hits album, collects the cream of the quartet of indie EPs — Songs From the Laundromat; Songs About Cars, Space and the Ramones; Songs From the Psychedelic Time Clock; and Songs for the Turntable — that the band released between June 2012 and January 2014. Street date for the collection is May 12, 2015.

Recorded in various studios in Atlanta, Memphis and Nashville, the EP series allowed the band — singer-guitarist Kinney plus co-founding bassist Tim Nielsen, guitarist Sadler Vaden and drummer Dave V. Johnson — to release a large amount of music in a relatively short period of time, avoiding much of the stresses that often accompany album-making.

“I just don’t have the patience anymore to spend two years making an album,” Kinney asserts. “The last Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ album, (Whatever Happened To) The Great American ubble Factory, was kind of an autobiographical thesis/rock opera about working-class America that took a couple of years to write. When we were done with that, I decided that it would be more fun to do a series of five- or six-song EPs that we could offer every five or six months, like a magazine subscription.

“Another reason I wanted to do a series of EPs,” he continues, “was that I wanted to deconstruct Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, and try to explain who we are and where we came from. So Songs From the Laundromat was kind of looking back to our early days on the Southern kudzu circuit. Songs About Cars, Space and the Ramones was based on our early roots in punk. Songs From the Psychedelic Time Clock was our tribute to our psychedelic roots. And Songs for the Turntable is who we are today, and what happens when you put all those influences together. No major label would have let me do that.”

The impetus to compile highlights from the EPs into album form arrived when old friend Cheetah Chrome—a punk icon for his seminal work with the Dead Boys and Rocket from the Tombs, and currently creative and A&R director of rising Nashville indie Plowboy Records—approached Kinney about recording for the label.

“Cheetah asked me if I wanted to make a Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ album,” Kinney recalls, “and I said that I didn’t think I had it in me to make another album at that moment. But I’d always wanted to make a greatest-hits album from the EPs. I had originally hoped that people would make their own albums out of their favorite songs on the EPs, and this is my version of that.”

Despite the material’s unconventional birth cycle, est of Songs makes for a remarkably cohesive listen, from the riffy, raucous rock of “Dirty,” “Hot Wheels” and “Space Eyes” to the thoughtful introspection of “Strangers,” “Turn” and “Roll Away the Song.” Elsewhere, Kinney’s knack for exploring his own deep and abiding relationship with rock ’n’ roll drives “R.E.M.” and “The Little Record Store Just Around the Corner,” which vividly capture youthful fandom’s sense of discovery and inspiration.

“I had so much fun doing every one of these songs,” Kinney states. “When you’ve got the pressure of making an album, it can start to feel like work, but we cut these songs fast and kept it fun. And on just about every album, you wind up with an albatross, that one song that doesn’t work or doesn’t fit or is just a throwaway, but we didn’t have that on the EPs.”

The combination of punchy electric rock ’n’ roll and gentler roots-pop has been a consistent thread in Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s recorded output since the band released its debut LP Scarred ut Smarter on the independent 688 label in 1986. Since then, the band — named in honor of Kinney’s penchant for mixing upbeat rockers (i.e. drivin’ songs) and bittersweet ballads (cryin’ songs) — has recorded albums for labels large and small, gaining national attention for such breakout tunes as the country-inflected “Straight to Hell” (from 1989’s Mystery Road) and the surging electric anthem “ ly Me Courageous” (the title track of the band’s 1991 album), while retaining the devotion of their longtime loyalists. Meanwhile, Kinney launched an enduring parallel solo career with 1990’s acoustic MacDougal lues, collaborating with the likes of R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, the Allman Brothers Band’s Warren Haynes and all-star alt-rock outfit the Golden Palominos along the way.

“Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ hasn’t had a major label paying for us to make records since 1994,” Kinney notes. “We’ve been totally independent and investing in ourselves for the last 20 years of our career. That can be frustrating in some ways, but the upside is that we have free reign to do what we want to do, because we’re not part of the system. We get to live in our own world and it’s fine.”