Scarred But Smarter: Life N Times of Drivin N Cryin
directed by Eric Von Haessler
by James Mann
Finally one of Atlanta's most beloved bands going on 30 years, Drivin' N' Cryin' get a proper reckoning in Scarred But Smarter: Life N Times of Drivin N Cryin. Directed by rabid fan and former radio personality Eric Von Haessler, the film is an even-handed look at the ups and downs of a band that, while never achieving “superstar” status, has been one of most tenacious and influential acts on the indie scene for decades. Leader Kevn Kinney alludes to the band's different facets -- are they a rock band, a folk band, or a punk band -- as being somewhat of a obstacle to greater recognition: how you do market a band with so many divergent strengths? The film documents not only the band, but also shows what it takes to survive at any level in the music business. From their formation and release of their first album, Scarred But Smarter on tiny Atlanta label 688 Records, to arena-filling major label MTV fodder with Fly Me Courageousand then back to the indies, DNC has learned to adapt and prosper (on their own level) while still maintaining their striving sense of musical curiosity and personal grit.
The story of DNC is largely the story of the two founding members, guitarist and songwriter Kevn Kinney and bassist Tim Nielsen. Kinney is described as “the karma dude” while Nielsen admits to being “a bit of an asshole” and it's this dynamic that fuels their sound -- the oft-times folkie instinct of Kevn man-handled into driving rock by Nielsen. From R.E.M's Pete Buck (who produced Kinney's amazing solo debut MacDougal Blues in 1990) to members of Blackberry Smoke, Ed Roland, Jason Isbell and more give testament to the bands greatness and influence. The film, while being the work of an ardent fan, doesn't shy away from the band's less than notable aspects (and members), but doesn't mire itself in sordid tales either.
Drivin' N' Cryin' has been an important part of the American musical landscape for quite a while, still producing dramatic, absorbing music long after lesser bands would have packed it in.Scarred But Smarter should satisfy the most fervent of fans if not attract new ears, because it's a loving and well-made tribute to one of the good guys, Drivin' N' Cryin'.