peter buck

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.

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.

Podcast
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.

Jack Logan #1329

Jack Logan is known for his comics as much as his music, starting with his “Pete Buck Superhero” series in the 1980s.  While the reluctant hero of the series may not have warmed to the idea right away, R.E.M. fans in Atlanta flocked to local record stores for the cult-series comic, which was kept in the glass case at check out, full of thumbprints from everyone who just wanted to see it.  Logan never stops creating, and his most recent album is with noted luthier, Scott Baxendale of Baxendale Guitar in Athens (formerly, Colorado).  Logan accurately describes his vocals, include the Elvis Costello-ish “Lounge Downtown” and “Erased,” references a part of Athens called Normaltown, all through a filter of psychedelic rock and “Athens rock.”  If you don’t crack up listening to “Run For Your Life,” you probably did not find Pulp Fiction funny, either.  (You might not know the local connotation, but in Athens, it’s “see you at the rock show.”)  With guest appearances from several former & current members of the Drive-By Truckers, this rock record may not be on your radar, but needs to be in your collection.

Liner Notes

Jack Logan & Scott Baxendale

This is a fantastic record from a couple names you might not readily recognize unless you are from Georgia, but they are locally legendary.

Jack Logan is a noted musician, but I first knew of him for his off-beat comics that I bought at Fantasyland Records in Atlanta, especially the Peter Buck (“Pete”) as superhero ones. Baxendale is part of the amazing guitar-makers, Baxendale Guitar.

From the liner notes:
Indie Rock Legend Jack Logan and Guitarist and guitar maker Scott Baxendale collaborate with members of Drive-By Truckers to create a driving, at times swampy guitar record with a dark and eclectic Southern perspective.

Jack Logan is back with his 12th studio album since his debut solo album in 1994. A debut album with an astonishing 42 songs, Bulk gained notoriety for the sheer size of the release– unfortunately more so than the quality of the songwriting. To be fair, it was a lot of work for Twin/Tone Records (home of The Replacements early releases) honcho Peter Jesperson to take 600 recordings made from 1979 to 1993 and distill them to only 42 songs! From the Bulk liner notes Jesperson says, “I went for the best songs and for what was most representative of the variety of styles. It seemed to be the only way to put across what Logan was all about.” Since that time Jack’s sporadic releases have bounced between record labels and self-released– even spending a very brief time on a major label for the 1999 album Buzz Me In.

Logan has a very supportive and talented group of friends he regularly counts on to join him on– in his words– “compulsive recording.” For Jack’s new album titled Bones in the Desert, he partners with Scott Baxendale who brought music with an Exile on Main Street-flavored blend of moody melancholia and cranky guitar rock. Considering that portions of Logan’s recorded output often resemble a belligerent Perry Como fronting the Rolling Stones, it is a comfortable fit. In addition to being a songwriter and guitarist, Baxendale is probably best known as being a top-notch luthier whose custom guitars are in the hands of musicians like the guys in Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Justin Townes Earle, Will Dailey, Butch Walker, Mick Jones of the Clash, and

Exclusive World Premiere of Kevn Kinney & Peter Buck 2012

More to come from two of my personal heroes…

DISCLOSURE: Jonathan Spencer is the brother of the producer of Country Fried Rock. Also with Laura Wiggins.