Kevn Kinney

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

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.

Sadler Vaden #1609

Sadler Vaden released his debut full length solo album in August 2016. His DIY effort morphed and was scrapped then re-imagined and recorded over a few years. What ultimately became this upbeat, pop influenced rock record demonstrates Vaden’s expertise gleaned from fronting his own band in the early 2000s for 8 years, playing for Drivin N Cryin, and most recently for Jason Isbell. Even his cover of John Moreland’s song, “Nobody Cares About Songs Anymore,” becomes Vaden’s own, filtered through Big Star and Vaden’s own sensibilities.

Buy Sadler Vaden here on Amazon or here on iTunes.
Vinyl, CD, and digital available.

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

Sadler Vaden: New Music

sadlervadenIf you have followed Jason Isbell for the last couple of years, or Drivin N Cryin for a few years before that, you may have heard Sadler Vaden on lead guitar. Fewer fans know that Vaden formerly fronted the band, Leslie, of Charleston, South Carolina, and released a couple of solo albums during the transitions among those projects. In a recent Country Fried Rock podcast, Kevn Kinney of Drivin N Cryin lauded Vaden for re-invigorating the band and bringing the vision for their EP series, which he produced.

After more than a year of rumblings, Vaden confirmed that his new album is complete and will be released within the next year. As a special treat for fans, he is setting free an outtake, “Brand New Guitar” from the upcoming album’s sessions, which will be for sale this Friday via Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp and other digital outlets. Not just a writer and guitarist, he often gets behind the drum kit and more. Reminiscent of Southern college rock in the early 1980s, the tune balances pop and guitar in a way that teases Vaden’s own balancing act of playing for others while being a stellar music-maker on his own.


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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Alumni Update: Hard Working Americans

Sort of an Alumni Association party for Country Fried Rock, combining the various talents of our alumni, Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Kevn Kinney (Drivin N Cryin), and Kevin Gordon with the band assembled by Todd Snider and Dave Schools (Widespread Panic).

Buy their music here Hard Working Americans on Amazon or Hard Working Americans on iTunes.

Here’s how Hard Working Americans describe themselves:

What do you get when you take a batch of incredible songs, five veteran players who have never played together, with an arsenal of five musical minds working in unison to reinvent them? You get Hard Working Americans. Hard Working Americans is the self-titled debut from this new musicians’ collective, scheduled for a January 21 release on Melvin Records/Thirty Tigers. Genres meld seamlessly with the birth of this group, featuring artists from the Americana, singer/songwriter, experimental, jam and rock communities. Hard Working Americans is: Todd Snider (vox), Dave Schools of Widespread Panic (bass), Neal Casal of The Chris Robinson Brotherhood (guitars/vox), Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi (keys) and Duane Trucks of Col. Bruce Hampton’s school of music and Trucks family lineage (drums).

Hard Working Americans features 11 tracks written by a range of artists that include Randy Newman, Lucinda Williams, Kevin Gordon, Hayes Carll, Kevn Kinney (Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’), Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings, Brian Henneman (The Bottle Rockets), Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack, Kieran Kane, Chuck Mead (BR5-49), Don Herron and Frankie Miller (Elizabeth Cook). As the five band members came together, they had no idea what to expect. Snider, known more as a songwriter than interpreter of songs, would just start singing and clapping, which then set the creative ideas in motion with his new band mates. This was uncharted territory as the players had not worked together previously, but it became an uninhibited, creative and fruitful environment as their chemistry was almost instant, a very pleasant surprise. In the end, the group created fresh and uniquely original arrangements of great songs, led by Snider’s intrepid vocals and backed by a band of virtuosos. The songs were then sequenced in an order that tells a story of the everyday person, the blue-collar worker, the frustrated, the struggling, the Hard Working American.

Hard Working Americans was produced by Dave Schools and Todd Snider. Special guests include John Popper and John Keane. The album was recorded at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios is San Rafael, CA, mastered by Bob Ludwig and mixed by John Keane. Look for Hard Working Americans on tour in early 2014.

Scarred But Smarter: The Life and Times of Drivin N Cryin (Film Trailer)

I am not associated with the makers of this film or the film itself.

(I did co-executive produce a music video for Drivin N Cryin with my brother, Jonathan Spencer, last year.)

We featured a great conversation with Kevn Kinney, just before Drivin N Cryin re-formed a couple years ago. Listen to it HERE.

This is rock and roll, y’all. NSFW. Explicit Language!

I have not seen the film, but I am pretty sure I’ll need to take a box of kleenex with me to watch it. We used to go to every show they did in Atlanta. R.E.M. were regional (national?) stars by then, but Drivin N Cryin were our hometown rockers. I will always love them.

Acceleration ’86? from Eric Von Haessler on Vimeo.

Excerpt: Scarred but Smarter from Eric Von Haessler on Vimeo.

The Innocent (Edit 1) from Eric Von Haessler on Vimeo.

Kevn Kinney On Meeting Fan Expectations from Eric Von Haessler on Vimeo.

Fly Me Courageous from Eric Von Haessler on Vimeo.

Dirty Angels (Macon)T2 from Eric Von Haessler on Vimeo.

Pre-Approved Pre-Denied from Eric Von Haessler on Vimeo.




What did Drivin N Cryin do for you?

Drivin N Cryin EP #2: Songs About Cars, Space, & The Ramones

Just got the second of Drivin N Cryin’s planned 4 EPs over the next year or so, Songs About Cars, Space and The Ramones.

I love the concept EP’s that they are doing. I think that people who always thought their songs were all over the map might “get” the band better this way, but also, it’s a cool way to see how versatile of a songwriter Kevn Kinney is. I like “Acceleration” and “Space Eyes” the best, but “Out Here in the Middle of Nowhere” certainly relates to my personal experience as well.

Grab this EP at the links above or Songs About Cars, Space and The Ramones – EP – Drivin N Cryin on iTunes.

#1248 Michelle Malone

Michelle Malone was part of the Atlanta music scene that evolved from the Indigo Girls’ success, enjoying national attention for the music of Shawn Mullins, Tinsley Ellis, and Drivin N Cryin, with her band at the time, Drag the River. The confluence of blues-tinged Southern music at the time made for an exciting music scene, that was later replaced by the still-dominant hiphop scene. Atlanta is a weird place filled with temporary residents who are not from the area, but it is also a collection of neighborhoods with their own identities and people who are part of the arts culture and give different places their distinct vibes. It is from the latter community that Michelle Malone emerges, not as an ingenue, but as the definition of the Atlanta rock sound–Southern, blues-touched, guitar-driven, but still about the song.

When Malone decided to record her most recent album, Day 2, she called upon her long-time friend, Shawn Mullins, to produce. Mullins and Malone collaborated to include their friends in the project, including Gerry Hansen (as co-producer), Phil Skipper, Tom Ryan, Trish Land, Chuck Leavell, Marty Kearns, Glen Matullo, and Randall Bramblett. Pretty much everyone who has ever been in the Atlanta roots scene has played with one or more of these stellar musicians. Malone knew her songs and vision were in excellent hands, and sought out their ideas and guidance in the recording process.

Currently, Day 2 is available in limited release directly from Malone’s website. She has released music within the spectrum of independent to labels and back again, finding the “new normal” DIY allows the artist to retain creative control. Michelle Malone plays regularly, both solo and with her band. If you get a chance to see her, you should try to catch a show in each setting, as the songs adapt to the venue, and bring fresh sounds with each format–more Southern than bluesy this time around. Malone is a player and songwriter that should be as recognizable to roots music fans as Bonnie Raitt is to blues rock fans.

Please support the musicians by purchasing their music through these Amazon and iTunes links. A small portion of your purchase also supports this radio show, at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

  • Michelle Malone Day 2 currently only available for purchase via her website. National release expected mid-2013. Michelle Malone
  • Indigo Girls “I Don’t Wanna Know” selected from Strange Fire because it is co-written with Michelle. Indigo Girls
  • Shawn Mullins produced Malone’s current album. Shawn Mullins
  • Callaghan also on Cayamo 2013, as well as another album produced by Mullins. Callaghan
  • Drivin N Cryin “Honeysuckle Blue” from Mystery Road chosen because Malone’s vocals are distinctly essential in this song. Drivin' n' Cryin'
  • Sea Level chosen because of Chuck Leavell, the keyboard player most known for his stint in the early 1970’s with the Allman Brothers Band, who also played on Malone’s album.  Sea Level, from C. Leavell, was his mid-late 1970’s band that garnered Southern recognition, but not national attention. Sea Level
  • Linda Ronstadt was Malone’s gateway to the music of Little Feat, Hank Williams, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Neil Young, and more. Linda Ronstadt
  • Little Feat quintessential Southern fusion band, defying genre and beloved to many. Little Feat

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