Milwaukee's Shepherd Express interviews Kevn
Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ and ‘The Great American Bubble Factory’
Kevn Kinney can’t remember exactly when his band Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ last played his hometown of Milwaukee, but it was quite a while ago. It was probably ’96 or ’97, he says, possibly ’98, though that seems too recent. The Atlanta rock band cut down drastically on shows a decade ago, as Kinney focused on making solo folk records and battled a nasty vocal node that made singing rock music painful. He still tries to conserve his voice by limiting shows, but the release of the first new Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ record in over a decade, The Great American Bubble Factory, was motivation enough for the band to take to the road again and play beyond the South.
“We toured so much for the first 15 years of our career that there’s no reason to tour too far unless you have a record out to promote,” says Kinney, who still visits Milwaukee semi-regularly sans band to visit family and play occasional solo shows. “And even with the new record, we’re going to drive up to the Midwest and just play Milwaukee and Chicago. Because I lost my voice, I can only do about two shows a week, so we don’t do Tuesday nights in Indiana anymore. No more Monday nights in Omaha
anymore. We’ve already paid our dues.”
A charged set of punk-accented Southern rock that should appeal to fans of the Drive-By Truckers, a band that Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ helped lay the foundation for and maintains a close friendship with, The Great American Bubble Factory picks up where Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ left off, with Kinney continuing his songwriting fascination with the American economy and the plight of middle America, themes that ran through the band’s earliest albums for Island Records in the mid-’80s.
“This new album has a lot of my Wisconsin roots in it,” Kinney says. “Growing up, I always called Milwaukee ‘the land of things that used to be,’ because my father would drive me around from our home on 74th and Capitol Drive to the East Side, and he’d point buildings out to me and tell me, ‘This used to be a store,’ ‘This used to be a pasty shop,’ ‘This used to be a factory.’ Everything used to be something. I wrote this record because it’s the same way in the South. In the South, textiles were the really big industry down there; then all of that moved to Bangladesh and India. This record asks why we can’t still manufacture in America. I understand that maybe we can’t make TVs or automobiles as efficiently as we used to—the country that invented the assembly line has very few assembly lines in it—so let’s start at the beginning: bubbles. I was in the dollar store one day and I looked at a bottle of bubbles, and it said ‘Made in China.’ I was like, ‘Seriously? We can’t even make bubbles?’ So that’s the catalyst for the record.
“The album gives me a reason to go out onstage to speak and share some of these concepts,” Kinney continues. “I’m not really an oldies guy; I don’t want to just come out and play our old hits. I’m excited to sing some of these new songs, too, and just share some ideas and let people know how I see the world.”
Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ headlines Shank Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 19, sharing the bill with the New York band Madison Square Gardeners.