DNC interview in Athens Banner-Herald

Drivin' 'N' Cryin' returns

By Chris Starrs  |  Correspondent  |  Story updated at 8:25 pm on 10/14/20


Drivin' 'N' Cryin' co-founder Kevn Kinney says the seminal Southern rockers decided to record again after a hiatus of nearly a dozen years to commemorate the return of his voice - one of the most recognizable and unique in all of popular music.

With co-founder Tim Nielsen (bass, mandolin, vocals), guitarist Mac Carter and drummer Dave V. Johnson, Kinney created "Whatever Happened to the Great American Bubble Factory" earlier this year in Atlanta, marking the band's return to the studio for the first time since 2001 and its first release of new music since 1997.

"This was my first real record I've done since I had (vocal cord) surgery two and a half years ago," says Kinney, who with DNC will visit the 40 Watt on Friday as part of a two-month tour of the Southeast. "Up until then, I had no voice - I couldn't even speak."

The first order of business when Kinney recovered from surgery was to embark on a DNC tour of Spain, which convinced him the band he helped launch some 25 years ago still had something to add to the musical conversation.

"When we toured Spain, it was exciting," he says. "It wasn't the same old Southern rock thing. People were saying, 'You should make a record.' The people were excited to see us because it had been so long since we'd been there. We had recorded some demos around 9/11 before my voice really got bad, but it was starting to get worse. I tried some other projects, which is when scary things started happening. After the surgery, I was singing like crazy - my voice had totally healed. It was fun to do shows again."

With seven solo albums to his credit, Kinney had made up his mind he no longer would foot the bill for the recording of DNC albums. But eight months ago, he was contacted by a small label owner in Atlanta who offered to pay for new DNC sessions. The band revisited its 9/11 sessions and, as Kinney says, "kept some of those songs and wrote some new ones."

"Bubble Factory" was produced by New York drummer-impresario Anton Fier, who helmed DNC's second album, 1988's "Whisper Tames the Lion." Kinney, who moved to Brooklyn three years ago after many years living in Athens, says he originally attempted to convince one of his fellow Athenians to serve as producer.

"I was a huge supporter of Drive-By Truckers back in the early days - I never missed them," he says. "They got this new Southern thing going, and I wrote 'I See Georgia' on the new album as sort of a Truckers song. I asked Patterson (Hood) to produce the album, but he was too busy, so I said, 'At least you can produce this song - I stole it from y'all ... at least a little bit of it."

The songs on "Bubble Factory" are vintage DNC and vintage Kinney, with a host of dual-guitar workouts sprinkled with a few of the acoustic treasures the band long has been known for. Kinney's familiar cast of characters - down-at-the-heel folks whose situations and emotions have been mined so well in the past - appear here on songs like "Detroit City," the title tune, "Preapproved, Predenied" and "I See Georgia."

"Drivin' 'N' Cryin' is a separate entity than Kevn Kinney," he says. "The double-guitar thing I just absolutely love because I grew up with Thin Lizzy and bands like that, but we eventually got out of that, and I wanted to bring it back. ... If this had been a solo record, the song 'Bubble Factory' would have had many more verses and a much more detailed storyline. But with Drivin' 'N' Cryin', I just want to get to the chorus, get the audience to sing along and let them draw their own conclusion about what the song means."

The band will spend much of the next year on the road promoting "Bubble Factory," and its first dates out of the blocks are mostly in the familiar haunts of Southeastern cities, some of which DNC haven't visited in more than a decade, a prospect Kinney finds a bit daunting.

"We haven't played in Richmond (Va.) since 1992 or 1993," he says. "I'm a little scared because people move on, especially in the South, where you really have to keep up. Take a place like Auburn (Ala.) - we went there every year from 1985 to 1991, but we haven't been back since. If you don't go to a town for six years, you miss an entire generation of students. I'm a little nervous, but I think we'll be fine."

Kinney also looks forward to the band's return to the 40 Watt.

"The 40 Watt is my home, and Barrie (Buck) and Velena (Vego) and that whole crowd are my family. It's where I belong. It played a very important part in our career."