Drivin’ n’ Cryin’: Mystery Road [Expanded Edition] (Island/UMe)

In what hopefully kicks off the first of several expanded edition albums from Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, Island Records and UMe have recently re-released ‘Mystery Road; (on vinyl and CD), with seven demos tacked onto the classic record. Curiously, the re-release started with the band’s third album, 1991’s ‘Fly Me Courageous,’ though arguable one of their best. Criminally underrated as a group during their initial run in the 1980s and early ‘90s, ‘Mystery Road’ tracks “Honeysuckle Blue” and “Straight To Hell” did manage to get a little love from college radio in 1989. The demos on this re-release were all produced by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, more proof that Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ was just about every Georgia rocker’s favorite band at the time.

For demos, the songs on this re-release are not that far removed from the final product which ended up on the official record, with most being fully formed by this stage. Of the crop, “Honey Suckle Blue” probably sounds the most different as the guitars drop back once Kevn Kinney starts singing (the final version admittedly ends up sounding better). There are also several demos here that never made it on the album like “1988,” probably the weakest tack; The mellow, folky “Not Afraid to Die,” a great song that surprisingly never made it onto a studio album; and the album closer, the somber “Mountaintop,” another solid track which was homeless until now. “MacDougal Blues” never made it onto a Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ record, but ended up being the title track from Kinney’s solo debut the following year.

Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ deftly combined punk, folk, Southern rock and country long before many other more successful bands that came out later ever thought of blending the genres, so it’s great to see their remarkable catalog finally getting another shot. I hope this is just the beginning to more deluxe reissues to come out.

NOVEMBER 3, 2017