TUNES FOR TUESDAY: Kevn Kinney & Drivin N’ Cryin

Kevn Kinney is the best songwriter you’ve never heard. He is the front man for Atlanta’s Drivin N Cryin. I once read that they named the band based on the two types of music they identified with–emotionally heartfelt songs and hard-driving rock songs. There may be some truth to that since their music is a mix of acoustic songs and blistering rock. I’d describe it as Hard Folk Rock. Yet, the image of someone crying while driving has always resonated with me more and seems true to the stories that populate his songs.

When I was a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill one of my new friends, a guy named Billy L., sat me in a chair in the middle of his room and made me listen to one song by a band that he declared would soon be my favorite. That song was Check Your Tears at the Door off the album Whisper Tames the Lion, and he was right.

That’s still the song I want played at my funeral for anyone taking notes. I was 18 years old the day I heard that song, and now, 25 years later, Kevn’s music still takes me to that same place that I’m proud to come from–a place of high hopes, tough shakes, grit, hard play, and good times with friends.

Through his songs, Kevn reveals poetic stories.  He has the voice of a blue collar workingman taking a gut-wrenching heart-ride through life. It also contains the celebrated camaraderie of going through it with a few good friends by your side.

Lissa and I met in Chapel Hill and that’s where we became fast friends. We listened to these songs again last weekend–she in San Fran and me in Raleigh–and relived so many of those days. We found ourselves listening to the Friend Song at the same time and getting lost in memories of those days–some great, some not so much. Regardless, Kevn Kinney’s music is for the reality of  life, its beauty and its toughness, all told through one of the most distinctive sounding voices in American rock.

A few years ago he had to have surgery to remove nodes on his vocal cords. Fortunately, it was successful and he’s now singing as strong as ever. Go see him live if you can. You’ll find a very loyal group of fans, many of which have been seeing him for decades and also new fans, hopefully like yourself, that have discovered him through his association with other bands like the Allman Brothers, Edwin McCain, 7Mary3, REM, the Black Crowes, Neil Young,  Blues Traveler, Gov’t Mule, or Soul Asylum.

Kevn has flirted with critical success several times in his career, but never attained it. His music is often about where he/we fit into the American dream.  I’ve often wondered if he would have written so much insightful and relevant music if he had achieved the cookie cutter definition of success. It’s hard to imagine him writing these kinds of songs in a true voice from an oversized mansion in Beverly Hills. It may be that he’s exactly where he writes and lives the best—standing in the shoes of Everyman. Hell, I’ll bet he even likes duct tape. I can tell you this–I’d send him a few free rolls for sure if he wanted some.

Here is a great playlist to get you started. I’m listing mine and Lissa’s together because we had so much crossover:

Whisper Tames the Lion
Catch The Wind The Friend
Song Check Your Tears At The Door
Can’t Promise You the World
Riding on the Soul Road

Mystery Road
Ain’t It Strange
Honeysuckle Blue
Wild Dog Moon
Straight to Hell
With the People

Great American Bubble Factory
I see Georgia
Midwestern Blues
Don’t You Know That I Know That You Know?

Fly Me Courageous
Let’s Go Dancing
Chain Reaction
Fly Me Courageous
Around The Block Again

MacDougal Blues
MacDougal Blues
Last Song of Maddie Hope
Hey Landlord
Goodnight Song

Down Out Law
Bird (acoustic)

Scarred But Smarter
Scarred But Smarter
Stand Up and Fight For It

A Good Country Mile
A Good Country Mile
Bird (great contrast to the acoustic version)
Never Gonna Change (cover of Drive-By Truckers)
Southwestern State (cover of Seven Mary Three)


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