Before the Drive-By Truckers, before Jason Isbell, before Lucero, there was Drivin N Cryin. A deeply Southern band of serious rockers, DNC took a melodic and quasi-literary approach to music making. Singer and songwriter Kevn Kinney, a Midwestern boy who relocated to Atlanta, got semi-famous but never rich, and crucially never lost his sense of wonder and joy at the sonic wonders of the garage, started the band in ’85 and remains today in the driver’s seat.
And unlike a lot of guys who went through the wringer of success and failure, in its myriad degrees, Kinney has retained his sense of humor and perspective. Any cynicism he’s developed in nearly 30 years of DNC has been tempered by his unwavering belief in the music he and his cronies make.
He’s a fan, first and foremost.
“I don’t know how My Morning Jacket makes records, if they spend three months making ‘em, that’s great,” Kinney told us during his last visit. “I like how they sound. I know that Peter Buck released a record last year, he made it in a week. And it’s really great.
“‘Wild Thing’ was recorded in 20 minutes! They (the Troggs) didn’t have enough money, so the producer said ‘We have 20 minutes left on the end of this session.’ So they went in, they did ‘Wild Thing’ twice, they did the B-side twice, and that’s it! That’s what you hear.”
The records he loves, Kinney said, aren’t about technical nirvana, but atmosphere and spirit. “Which is what I’m trying to get. I mean, what do I have? If I spend a month singing, is my voice going to get any different than the weird, whiny, nasal whatever thing it is? I’m never gonna sound like Soundgarden.”