The Wilmington Star News talks to Kevn

Since '85, Drivin' n' Cryin' has been honing its identity

Kevn Kinney (from left), Dave V. Johnson, Sadler Vaden and Tim Nielsen are Drivin' n' Cryin' Courtesy photo

By Brian Tucker
StarNews Correspondent

December 14, 2011

"Here's the good news: We created our own world. Here's the bad news: We created our own world."

So said singer-guitarist Kevn Kinney of the music his band, Drivin' n' Cryin', has made since 1985, perhaps explaining why they remained well-known in the South without becoming a household name.

Drivin' ‘N Cryin', which plays the Brooklyn Arts Center in Wilmington on Friday, never exploded in their heyday, yet retained a fan base and influenced other acts. The music remains a mix-tape of folk, country, punk and rock and Kinney's soulful yet nasal voice helped the band stand out during years of '80s hair metal.

The band's independent 1986 debut, "Scarred but Smarter," drew the attention of Island Records. The band followed it up with 1987's "Whisper Ta

mes the Lion" (Polygram) and 1989's "Mystery Road" (Island again), the latter of which features the band's most famous song, "Straight to Hell."

"I have deconstructed and tried to figure that (song) out," Kinney said. "I think the main thing is the line, ‘Just like my momma says,' I'm going straight to hell just like she said. Every parent thinks of their kid going astray at some point. That's the endearing part. It's a song about Romeo and Juliet running away so it's kind of a love song."

The song is based on Kinney's own family; his parents split up on their 25th anniversary and divorced soon after. Four of their five children were out of the house. All that remained was his sister and mother at odds with each other.

After the band's third record, they began to feel pressure from Island. By 1991's "Fly Me Courageous," the label had told the band "you're going to make it or you're going somewhere else," Kinney said. "There was a little desperation in that record. You can see in the video (for the album's title track)."