Drivin N Cryin returns with more thinking-man’s Southern rock
By Matt Wake
The guitar storm on “I See Georgia” is the same wattage as Drivin N Cryin’s signature rocker “Honeysuckle Blue.” It’s also the last song DNC singer/guitarist Kevin Kinney penned for the quartet’s new album, “Great American Bubble Factory.”
“I wanted to write something with kind of a Drive-By Truckers vibe,” Kinney says. “It’s also an homage to the bands that cover Drivin N Cryin.” “Bubble Factory” finds DNC digging into the same stash—Dylan, Ramones, Thin Lizzy—that made them the thinking-man’s Southern rock group of the late-’80s/early-’90s. When Kinney’s high-lonesome scream stretches over dagger-riffs on “Trainwreck” or he’s waxing optimist on the acoustic “This Town” it’s obvious this is Drivin N Cryin.
Your voice is very distinctive. My favorite vocalists growing up were like Ronnie Spector, that nasally thing. I really liked the ’60s “Nuggets” type of stuff. I really liked Ozzy’s voice. That’s kind of my rock voice, the high thing.
Many bar bands have covered DNC. Got a funny story about that? In Columbus, Ohio, one night, we’d booked a show at a small theater, there was a big football game that night. Like 80 people showed up. We get done and go next door, and there’s a band playing “Straight to Hell” and there’s like a thousand people out there.
Any vivid memories from the band’s MTV era? We had a limousine and were riding with Paul Rodgers from Bad Company. The car in front of us had Lenny Kravitz and he gets on the red carpet and there’s a snowstorm of flash bulbs. Me and Paul Rodgers get out of the car and there’s a sporadic picture here and there and darkness. Click. I also remember sitting on a bar in New York with Cindy Crawford when she had some kind of show.
After moving to Brooklyn a couple years ago what have you missed most about the South, from all your years in Georgia? I miss everything but the humidity. I miss the random conversations with old women standing in line at the grocery store. The acts of random kindness.
You’ve played Mosrite guitars forever. Why? They’re random. There was a brief period when they made the Ventures at a factory, but most of them were made by women sitting on a bench wrapping
wires around the (guitar) pickups. Some are really weak, but when you get one that’s really great, like my red one, it’s really great. I have some that really suck. I got into them because of Johnny Ramone
What format do you buy music in these days? I actually have a turntable. I just bought the new Jakob Dylan on vinyl at one of his concerts. I think it sounds better than the CD. What I love about vinyl is that you’re limited to 15 to 20 minutes of music and after that you have to turn it over or listen to something else. When I try to buy CDs, I try to buy them at shows and support the artist. People don’t remember in 1990, 1991 when Drivin N Cryin was on Island (Records), we weren’t allowed to sell CDs at shows. You had places like Turtles that were hoping you were going to send people to the store the next day.
What’s next for you project-wise? I think I’ve always cheated Drivin N Cryin by trying to do too many different things. I’m just going to focus on this for a while and enjoy it. I’ve got a project with Anton Fier (who co-produced “Bubble Factory”) and Andy Hess (formerly) of Govt Mule that’s almost finished. It’s got a heavy sound, a little country, some ’70s James Gang with slide guitar. And I made this folk album I might be putting out in Europe in February.
What did you learn from touring with Neil Young in the ’90s? It was a real pleasure to be able to see his amp setup. He sets up all these amps under the stage and on top of the stage and blends them to get that thing he gets. Before I did that tour I was just playing a Marshall. After that, I started using a Fender and Marshall together.
Any fly-on-the-wall moments from that tour? The last couple of shows were in Calgary and the bar at the hotel we were staying at was a strip bar. I remember after or before the show or waiting for the bus everyone was like, “Meet me in the bar.” So we go in there and there’s Neil Young and Sonic Youth. At a strip bar. They weren’t sitting up front by the stage or anything.