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Back in 1985, when singer/songwriter Kevn Kinney was first jumpstarting his Atlanta-based performing career (he had just relocated from his native Milwaukee), the Georgia alternative music scene was in a busy sort of disarray.

The first significant wave of Athens bands like Pylon and Love Tractor, and Atlanta cohorts like The Swimming Pool Q’s were enjoying varying degrees of national success, but none of them had yet to achieve the kind of widespread college-radio acceptance that R.E.M. or The B-52’s had earned/won.

It was in that pregnant climate that Kinney’s distinctly blue collar take on disaffected cowpunk was first revealed.

The Scarred But Smarter EP – his first release as leader of Drivin-N-Cryin – made an awfully loud ruckus when it appeared on the nascent 688 Records label. A fiery blast of pent-up teen angst and self-righteous indignation, it was subsequently re-issued by Island Records after they signed the group, and despite other more high-profile albums to follow, time may yet reveal their first shot off the bow to be their single finest moment – warts and all.

A handful of records followed, each with varying degrees of radio and chart success, but along the way, D-N-C morphed into a weird catchall group that too-often tried to marry Skynyrd-style hokum with Judas Priest-style metal.

At some point, Kinney seemed to realize the futility of this exercise in the forced behavior modification of his core audience, and reserved his more boho tunes for a stream of roots-oriented acoustic discs which played up his nasal, Dylan-esque bray, and his folkie persona.

Now, he divides his time between “solo” gigs (backed by most of the cats from D-N-C), and “full-on” Drivin-N-Cryin shows where they lay it on thick and loud for the diehard fans and thinning-haired UGA grads which make up the brunt of their present-day following.

Still, whether digging deep into the band’s back catalog for such seminal moments as the exhilarating (if rather ludicrous) “Powerhouse” from Whisper Tames The Lion, or trotting out tired warhorses like “Straight To Hell” or “Honeysuckle Blue,” one thing is certain: Kinney and company may have never had the best collective sense when it came to long-range marketing, but in their finest moments, they were always – and remain – an impressive and reliable hard rock act that can hold their own with most other contenders. Thurs., Deja Groove.

Patti Rothberg, Stolie

Back in 1996, I stumbled across the debut album by Patti Rothberg (Between The 1 and The 9, on EMI), and I was most pleasantly surprised.

Discovered while playing in a New York City subway terminal, Rothberg’s cooing, raspy, blues-inspired vocals and diffident, carefully unkempt image betrayed the unmistakable influence of that other famous NYC rock poet – the legendary Patti Smith.

Musically, her sly, punk-ish tunes resembled a variation on the Smith/Liz Phair school of rock. in other words – she sounded a lot like Jennifer Trynin, who was also being pushed at approximately the same time. Alas, EMI tried to pass her off as “the next Alanis Morissette,” not realizing that virtually no one alive was interested in such a thing. And yet, Between The 1 and The 9 sold a very respectable 300,000 copies in the U.S..

Since that label closed their doors, Rothberg has retreated into the far less lucrative, but infinitely more liberating world of small indie labels, and continued to be a regular attraction on the Northeastern club scene.

She’s toured with such notable artists as Aimee Mann, The Black Crowes and Chris Isaak, and now she’s back out on the road in support of her upcoming album Double Standards.

This gig finds her appearing with Stolie, a Chicago-based songwriter who’s often compared to Sheryl Crow and Michelle Branch, but who cites Patty Griffin and Mary Lou Lord as mentors. This will be her second time in town. Fri., The Sentient Bean.

Captain Soular Cat

Based in Rome, Georgia, these Southern rock acolytes are quickly becoming one of the more popular touring acts on the Southeastern circuit.

They play at least 15 shows a month, and are known for turning in tight, powerful performances that are completely geared around pleasing their audiences. That reputation for always giving their all has helped them to nab opening slots for heavyweight road acts like Leftover Salmon, Gov’t Mule and The Meters.

You’ll find traces of bluegrass, blues, country – and even Latin music – in their original compositions, many of which give a nod to the jazz-influenced guitarwork of Carlos Santana. In fact, the bandmembers admit that musician’s approach to mixing genres exemplifies much of what Captain Soular Cat is about. Sat., Savannah Blues.

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Jim Reed

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