Indie Music Reviews Scarred But Smarter (life n times of drivin n cryin) by J. Rivera
“You don’t fit in anywhere.” says Kevin Kinney about his band, Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ and its considerable legacy. What started off as a two month project bloomed into a three year journey for Atlanta’s Regular Guys radio show host Eric Von Haessler turned documentary filmmaker as followed DNC around.
The short version of this film is why aren’t DNC more famous than they are? How much of this was self sabotage or that the masses never truly got hip to band that was hard to categorize?
Yes they had their big moment in the sun, Fly Me Courageous, but that blew over pretty quickly, and no one bought the next album, Smoke.
Some of the more revealing details of the film is that a band so identified with Atlanta, a band that has kudzu practically growing all over it, the origins come from Milwaukee, Kevin Kinney’s Home town.
Sick of shoveling snow and dreaming of Flipper, he headed south, but never made it to the coast.
We also find out that the record label tried to make Kinney go to a dentist, to fix his unique smile, and that he ended up having a strange connection to Jeffrey Dahmer.
“Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ got exactly what they had coming to them; fame and no fame, fortune and no fortune,” admits Kinney.
Mystery Road is their widely acknowledged masterpiece, that confounded categorization. It was country, but it was folk, but it had punk, and it had “Straight to Hell” on it, the song that closed a thousand bars. A pure bit of genius, most people didn’t know what to do with it.
“Kevin’s a folkie at heart who just happens to love The Ramones.” someone rightfully claims about him during the film. There’s interviews with Peter Buck of REM, Darius Rucker, Cracker’s David Lowery, and Collective Soul’s Ed Roland, all properly acknowledging the brilliance of Kinney’s songwriting. Kinney throughout talks about always doubting himself every step of the way and often feeling on the verge of a nervous break down.
Scarred but Smarter’ is named after the band’s 1986 debut LP and thankfully Haessler avoids any poor, poor me, sentiments from the bands repeated misfortunes. He’s put together a well paced collection of videos and interviews with current and former members as well as friend and acquaintances of the band.
This is an honest film about fame, commerce and art in America. Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ are famous enough to have a fan base that adores them and continues to support them as they slog across the endless miles of the American Highways. But not so famous that it’s easy or there’s tons of money, or that they’re a household name. So they have to work. And it’s o-k, because Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ are really good at what they do, and seem to get better with every passing year.