aaron lee tasjan

Tim Nielsen of Drivin N Cryin #1802

Atlanta’s Home Town Band

Tim Nielsen co-founded Drivin N Cryin with Kevn Kinney in Atlanta in 1985. Drivin N Cryin were hometown heroes before their debut album, Scarred But Smarter, was even released, as R.E.M. had already “made it huge” for a Georgia band by then. Whisper Tames the Lion was their major label release on Island Records, who also re-released SBS. By the time Mystery Road came out, Drivin N Cryin were on the road to major rock band stardom. Catch the almost-rise, and not-exactly fall in the fan-film by Eric von Haessler, with special guests like Jason Isbell and Darius Rucker.

Vinyl Album Re-issue of Mystery Road

In October 2017, the archives imprint of Island Records remastered and re-released Mystery Road, in a gatefold vinyl double album. The re-issue includes several of the Peter Buck demos for that session, previously only available under the counter from local record stores and tape traders. Even the scrapped title track finally makes this version of Mystery Road. Buck and Kinney have been long-time close friends, and Buck was supposed to produce Mystery Road. Due to R.E.M. band obligations and the album-cycle expectations of DNC’s label, the project ended up with a different team behind the board. It’s a treat to finally, officially hear some of these demos!

DNC Officially Welcomes Laur Joamets & Announces New Album Produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan

Country Fried Rock’s family tree continues to pollinate. In our original Kevn Kinney interview (here and second conversation here), he mentioned one of his favorite emerging songwriters, Aaron Lee Tasjan, who has since been featured twice on this podcast. Tasjan will produce the next Drivin N Cryin album, and has already shared some pre-production sneak peeks.

Mystery Road reissue 2017 album art

Sally Jaye #1703

Sally Jaye launched Cafe Rooster Records with a legendary guerrilla party at AmericanaFest 2016 in Nashville, TN. The cooperative record label began with friend and co-founder, Darrin Bradbury’s album, Elmwood Park. They quickly added a vinyl release of Jaye’s band, Ladies Gun Club, a vinyl re-issue of her solo album, Amarillo, and a digital release of fellow co-founder Brian Wright’s album, The Sneak Ups. Within the first year, Cafe Rooster released their first two albums “outside” the family, Jon Latham’s acclaimed Lifers and a collaborative record, Strange Freedom: Songs of Love and Protest, to benefit Planned Parenthood. Keeping with the DIY ethos of the artists, the label promotes limited edition, hand-made art, rather than typical merch. With a revived touring schedule of her own (playing in Ojai, CA, and Los Angeles this week), Jaye may be the busiest record label executive in the business.

Drivin N Cryin: Mystery Road Re-issued

It’s crazy and weird and fantastic to have bands I snuck out of the house to see (R.E.M. and Drivin N Cryin) continue to matter to music fans so much that their albums get re-issued. I’m pretty sure I’ve told y’all the story of not getting hired at a Columbus, Ohio, radio station in the late 1980s when the Program Director asked me who my favorite Atlanta band was and I said, “Drivin N Cryin.” He said, “I only know one song from them, and I don’t like it. Too country.” I ended up working at that station anyway by co-hosting the morning show. I laughed my head off when the PD drunkenly sang “Straight to Hell” at the station Christmas party. Joke’s on you, dude.

As a fan of the band since before their debut album was released, I forget that Mystery Road and Fly Me Courageous are the albums most Southerners knew from Drivin N Cryin. The band played a lot of the material before it ended up on the album, so the vocal mix on the release of “Honeysuckle Blue” (with Atlanta legend, Michelle Malone) stuck out oddly. I was surprised that audiences in the Midwest, where I was living, latched on to the harder rock songs like “Toy Never Played With” and “You Don’t Know Me” and didn’t seem to “get” the dance-able ones like “Ain’t It Strange” or the softer ones like “With the People.” The song that clearly was the live anthem (moving out my favorite “Scarred But Smarter”) was “Straight to Hell,” a crowd sing-along, where the rednecks, punks, and hippies all felt the song was about them.

The upcoming expanded double album re-issue of Mystery Road is exciting for mega-fans and those who arrived to Kevn Kinney’s songs later in life. Primarily, the songs have been remastered and the long-known but not heard demos produced by Peter Buck (R.E.M.) are part of this special package. After Whisper Tames the Lion, the local chatter was that Buck was producing Drivin N Cryin’s next album, but when it came time for release, it was some “outsider” (Scott MacPherson). Not knowing how labels and band obligations and recording and “the machine” worked at the time, my crew of Atlanta fans felt that the album was a bit “slick” for our guys. These Buck-produced demos, though, tease of the direction the album might have gone, had that synergy of Georgia jangle happened. I like that they are demos, because the songs are raw and plain and share how song ideas can change, with time, with influences, and with instrumentation. Listen to one of Drivin N Cryin’s demos, produced by Peter Buck, the omitted title track, “Mystery Road.”

The DNC lineup at the time of Mystery Road included founders Kevn Kinney and Tim Neilsen, former Kansas and R.E.M. guitar tech, Buren Fowler (RIP), and Jeff Sullivan, who had recently left Mr. Crowe’s Garden (who later re-emerged as Southern Rockers, The Black Crowes). The band has played more in the last several years than the decade prior, with drummer Dave V. Johnson, and a rotating cast of lead guitar players, from Aaron Lee Tasjan, Sadler Vaden (now in Jason Isbell’s band), Warner E. Hodges (Jason & The Scorchers, Dan Baird/Georgia Satellites), to recently Laur Joamets (Sturgill Simpson’s former lead guitar player, and a noted musician and songwriter in his own right, just like the others). Kinney writes prolifically, once telling me that he’ll keep putting out new records for the rest of his life. Their live shows do not follow a fixed set list, and I don’t think they’ve ever played the same show twice. Kevn told me years ago that they all know 100 Drivin N Cryin and Kinney solo songs, and he pulls them out on the fly.

Long-time friend of the band, Darius Rucker, recorded “Straight to Hell” for his upcoming new album. Rucker often sings that song live, especially if you catch him at charity gigs or unofficial nights out. I’m not a Hootie hater, and frankly don’t understand that energy at all. Hell, don’t we all want to hear him sing “rain” in four more songs? I commend him for seeing the potential of this song in a pop country market, and I hope Kevn Kinney and Tim Neilsen get some nice mailbox money out of it.

PREMIERE Jon Latham “Lifers”

Jon Latham‘s pals are lifers. Capturing the heart of why Country Fried Rock exists, Lifers highlights songwriters who create because they must — driven to write, driving in vans. In this song premiere of the title track, dedicated listeners to this radio show will be able to guess who the song is about: a couple of our alumni and other lifers who make our kind of music happen.

Pre-order Lifers here on IndieGoGo: https://igg.me/at/jon-latham-lifers
Catch Jon Latham’s official AmericanaFest showcase Sat., 9/24/16 at the 5 Spot.

Catch a quick VOIP chat with Sloane Spencer and Jon Latham here, where we talk about our friends like Todd Farrell, Jr.: All Our Heroes Live in Vans (not “friends,” but you know what I meant) (Benchmarks, The Dirty Birds), Aaron Lee Tasjan, and Darrin Bradbury.

Allen Thompson #1608

Allen Thompson Band‘s new album, Brace Yourself, is still kept under top-secret guard, but the stories leading to the title seem surreal. Thompson and band mate, Clint Maine, both broke their backs in separate accidents within a month of each other. The following year helped them expand their sound and get weirder, as they describe. Thompson called on a slew of music friends to contribute to the record, including the first single, a duet with Elizabeth Cook, “Long Time Thinkin’,” out now.

Always know about your new favorite band by clicking your favorite “Subscribe” link below!

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Best of 2015

Our listeners choose Country Fried Rock’s Best of 2015 list by streaming or downloading our podcasts throughout the year. Usually, this leads to a very clear selection of songwriters, but there were several ties this year, so the Top 10 are actually the top 14! Even better!

As always, thank you so much for listening to this show. If you like what you hear, please give a positive review or rating on your podcast source of choice, such as iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Agogo, SoundCloud, etc. Thank you. –Sloane

10 Rayland Baxter

9 Lee Gallagher

8 tie: Aaron Lee Tasjan

8 tie: Andy Gabbard/
Buffalo Killers

8 tie: Great Peacock

7 Lilly Hiatt

6 Danny Barnes

5 Bones of JR Jones

4 tie: Justin Townes Earle

4 tie: 6 String Drag

3 Drivin N Cryin

2 Cale Tyson

1 tie: Ben Miller Band

1 tie: Steve Earle

Aaron Lee Tasjan #1523

Aaron Lee Tasjan writes folk songs for an indie rock crowd, weaving storylines with humor and social commentary. His debut full-length album, In The Blazes, includes friends from his former band, Everest, at the helm, and the vibe of Elliott Smith’s studio, New Monkey. Tasjan is touring heavily in support of the album, opening for Ray Wylie Hubbard, and playing solo and band gigs across the country. NOTE: We previously featured ALT here, following his debut EP.

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Drivin N Cryin #1522

Kevn Kinney of Drivin N Cryin has been a thread throughout my life in music, from teenage punk wannabe sneaking into clubs for shows (thanks, Randy!), to not getting hired at the first radio station I interviewed for because the program director told me he hated DNC and I defended them anyway (look who turned out to be right, Chris), to one of the very first radio shows on Country Fried Rock, before we had a podcast and were still streaming on Live 365, to now — me filling my dream of talking to the best songwriters about music I love and so many of y’all loving what we share. Kevn Kinney changed my life and now his band will be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

Fangirl.

Kevn Kinney is not stuck in the 1980s, though, and that is what makes his solo work interesting and also what keeps DNC vibrant. They are not a nostalgia band at all; in fact, their series of EP’s over the last couple of years, produced by Sadler Vaden (then, playing in DNC, now playing with Jason Isbell, but also a solid songwriter in his own right and his former band, Leslie), brought DNC to fresh territory and new audiences. I first learned about #CFRalum, Aaron Lee Tasjan, via Kevn, and Tasjan later played with the band for a while. (ALT also has a new album, In The Blazes.) Currently, Warner Hodges (solo, Jason & The Scorchers, Dan Baird) is bringing his guitar to the stage with the band.

Collaborations are Kinney’s behind-the-scenes hallmark, regularly writing with his pal, Todd Snider, and upcoming recordings with Chuck Mead (BR-549). Just as Peter Buck gave Kinney new platforms to share his writing with MacDougal Blues, Kinney does the same for folks like Findlay Brown, The Everyothers, and Angie Aparo (who sings like an angel, y’all). Kinney has at least four other records coming out in the next twelve months, keeping fans and new listeners on their toes. Catch a show, solo, band, or the special “And Friends” sets — you will be in for a treat.

Buy Drivin N Cryin or Kevn Kinney‘s music.

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Stream or download below, or on SoundCloud.

Please subscribe to Country Fried Rock in iTunes or your favorite podcast app, and leave us a rating and a comment! That will help boost our search results and allow people to find the show more easily.

We welcome your feedback on the show. You can reach me on Facebook or @countryfriedrok.

Aaron Lee Tasjan #1411

I jokingly said to Aaron Lee Tasjan that it might be a shorter list of who he has NOT played music with.  Even though his name may not be familiar offhand, Tasjan was actually mentioned in some outtakes of our show several years ago, when I was talking with Kevn Kinney about emerging bands that he liked; Tasjan’s former band, Madison Square Gardeners, were on the top of Kinney’s list.  Bring that full circle of them working together on Anton Fier’s Golden Palominos record, A Good Country Mile, and now, Tasjan is the featured guitar player on the road with Drivin N Cryin.  It is truly a small world.

Tasjan writes his own music, as well, taking lessons from those with whom he has worked and applying them to improving his own songs.  His new EP, Crooked River Burning, shows some of his more recent direction, but I anticipate that Tasjan will continue to evolve as a writer.  I cannot imagine his music stagnating.  Produced by Anton Fier and released on Rockwood Music Hall Recordings, Tasjan incorporates his mentors into his music as much as he becomes one of them when playing their songs.

Buy Aaron Lee Tasjan’s music here on Amazon or here on iTunes.


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Aaron Lee Tasjan

You might not realize that you already know Aaron Lee Tasjan‘s music or playing, but not in this way. His forthcoming solo EP, Crooked River Burning, differs from his work with Semi Precious Weapons or shredding as lead guitar for Drivin N Cryin recently. Letting his songwriting overtake his ironic glasses is a good move for Tasjan.

Buy Aaron Lee Tasjan’s older music on Amazon.

From his bio:

East Nashville, TN November 2013-”Don’t walk away, I’m talking to you,” sings Aaron Lee Tasjan in the first chorus of the first song off of his new EP, Crooked River Burning. The song is aptly titled Don’t Walk Away and covers a lot of ground in four minutes and twenty-one seconds. It is, in it’s own way, much like the artist himself: filled with insight and brutal honesty, humorous and sincere in a fashion which is truly unique to the man delivering the song. These songs have been heard all across the USA this past year; in just about every bar, parking lot, van and music club that is still open and still puts on live music. As you listen to the songs on this EP, you begin to understand that while Tasjan seemingly works endlessly to bring his music to whomever will listen out on the road, he is also singing these songs because he has to. There is pain within the reedy Midwestern drawl of his voice but also the ability to laugh at life’s misfortunes and ultimately transcend them by putting into words and music all of his thoughts and experiences along the way.

Produced by Anton Fier (Bob Mould, Golden Palominos), the EP also features Fier on drums and Chris Morrissey (Taurus, Andrew Bird) on bass and upright bass. Recorded live with ALT, Fier and Morrissey all tracking at the same time, there is a feeling of immediacy and human interaction happening in these cuts that is greatly benefited by Tasjan’s laid back approach to technical prowess and highly effective regard for feel. The performances are spirited and the songs are of such quality that Tasjan was even recently honored by ASCAP at The Kennedy Center as one of America’s great songwriters of the next generation.

Now living in Nashville, TN, his list of accomplishments and accolades continues to grow, but one only need listen to the songs on this EP to realize that Tasjan can accomplish what few can musically, he can write songs that make you laugh and cry at once all while revealing himself to you in a manner such that you feel connected to something healing and powerful.