Lenny Kaye reviews Great American Bubble Factory

eMusic Review of the Day

by Lenny Kaye

It has been far too long since Drivin' and Cryin' graced us with a full-length, kick-the-door-open into their creative wellspring — 12 years, if I have my fingers and toes in the right order — and it is surely worth the wait. Of all the bands that came out of rock's scorched-earth march through Georgia in the mid 80s, straddling the grits-and-greens traditions of Suthenrock and the spits-and-sheens of alt-indie, they have resolutely held aloft ("Fly Me Courageous"!) their vision of music as uplift and psychic release, and pursued it, relentlessly and doggedly, like setting out on a long interstate haul to who-knows-wherever.

It has road-mapped lead auteur Kevn Kinney's journey from Milwaukee to Atlanta up to New York City, where over the past couple of years he has provided a homing beacon in the form of weekly residences at Shani Rae's Truck Stop, gathering (along with that shake 'n' shimmy Shani) a bunch of like-minded musicians and choosing his venue. He then makes it his living room, the crowd so close he can pick out each face and send them a wink and a line. He invites his friends up to play, myself amongst them. One night he asked me to ride shotgun on "Straight To Hell," the Drivin' and Cryin' singalong folk-standard, and I played one of the best solos of my life, each note underscored with his beatific, encouraging smile. Don't remember what I played, never looked at the guitar neck, just Kevn urging me on. Thanks, man.

He's that kind of inspirational, and though in his solo guise he electrics as hard as he acoustics (sometimes at the same time), Drivin' and Cryin' have a core band identity that sits him with the boys in the van: Tim Nielsen on the bass, Jeff Sullivan on drums, and Mac Carter seconding him on guitar. The group has hardly been silent these past dozen years, touring their "region," following their faithful, honing their chops (especially those babyback ribs that Kevn slow-simmers on the barbeque). The opening thunderstruck chords of "Detroit City" show they've only gotten louder and more powerful, and the frontal energy immediately unfurls some of the concerns foreboding this record like a storm cloud on the horizon: unemployment, class warfare in America, the workingman's blues, all seen through a prism of affection and empathy for one's fellow humans, "This Town" especially.

"Preapproved, Predenied" takes the credit crunch to task for those who never seem to get any credit; "I Stand Tall" is a declaration of principle that calls to arms and dances the feets; and I would give anything to witness "I See Georgia" played within the eat-a-peach state, the crowd hollering and the pro-federate flag waving.