Drivin N Cryin’s Kevn Kinney: Sowing Confusion
Since their debut in the mid 1980s, Atlanta-based Drivin N Cryin have crafted their own take on southern rock. Led by guitarist/songwriter Kevn Kinney, the group has distilled its many influences into a sound that is all their own. A recent series of EPs set out to explore those various styles, and selections from those CDs have been compiled on the new vinyl-only release, Best of Songs.
With more than two dozen songs released on those EPs between 2012 and 2013, Kinney had a lot to choose from when sequencing Best of Songs. “I tried to keep it kinda poppy,” Kinney says. “We designed it to look like a 1970s K-Tel record…upbeat and groovy. So I focused more on our power pop type stuff.”
Each of the four Drivin N Cryin EP releases focuses on a musical style. “The first one is ‘kudzu rock’n’roll’ like R.E.M., Fetchin’ Bones, and all of our heroes of that era,” says Kinney. “The punk rock one is our hard rock side. And the psychedelic one is pretty obvious.” A fourth, Songs for the Turntable, is a five-song stylistic grab-bag. “I wanted to deconstruct the band through those EPs,” says Kinney. “Because if any band needs to be deconstructed, it’s Drivin N Cryin. And if I can do anything to confuse the audience even more, that’s what I want to do!”
After having released seven albums on major labels (Island and Geffen) followed by several on smaller labels, Drivin N Cryin chose to release Best of Songs on Plowboy Records, a small indie label that features Cheetah Chrome (of punk legends The Dead Boys) as its A&R guy. Kinney muses on the difference between indies and the majors. Smaller labels allow the artist more creative control. “Because,” laughs Kinney, “No one’s giving me a hundred thousand dollars. If they give you $100k, you gotta let them have their input. Which is not good.” He repeats for emphasis. “It’s not good.”
Kinney says that guitarist Sandler Vaden was a star of – and a motivating force behind – the songs on the EPs and Best of Songs. “Sadler co-produced almost all of these EPs with me. He co-wrote and played guitar, and he played bass on some of the tracks. This guy is a genius. We had him in our band, and I knew that this kid was gonna be big. What was happening was like lightning striking. So I wanted to make as many records, as fast as I could, with the guy while he was with us. This kid is gonna be a famous producer someday. You’re gonna hear about him for the rest of your career, his career. I just love the guy. He’s somebody who I wish I had to work with back when I was 19 or 20.”
With the amicable departure of Vaden – “Now he’s with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit,” notes Kinney – Drivin N Cryin has brought Warner Hodges, guitarist with another southern institution, Jason and the Scorchers, on board for touring dates. After more than ten Drivin N Cryin albums, four group EPs and eight Kevn Kinney solo albums, what’s in the future for the band? “This is our last project for awhile,” says Kinney. Catch them while you can.
An edited version of this feature was published previously in Mountain Xpress. Tomorrow I’ll run my entire original Q&A with Kevn Kinney. — bk
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About the Author
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. After a stint as Editor-in-chief for a national music magazine, Bill launched Musoscribe in 2009, and has published new content every business day since then (and every single day since 2018). The 4000-plus interviews, essays, and reviews on Musoscribe reflect Bill's keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz, and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill's work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He regularly hosts lecture/discussions on artists and albums of historical importance (including monthly events Music to Your Ears and Music Movie Mondays), and is a frequent guest on music-focused radio programs and podcasts. In Spring 2023 he is co-teaching a history of Rock 'n' Roll at UNC Asheville's College for Seniors. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues -- more than 30 to date -- and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's final album. His first book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2018, and in paperback in 2019. His second book, Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave, was published in 2021 by HoZac Books. His third book, What's the Big Idea: 40 Great Concept Albums will be published in 2024. Read even more about him here.