Formed in Atlanta in 1986, the hard-rocking, Southern roots music-steeped Drivin' n' Cryin' were never embraced on a national level, but have reigned supreme in the region during their tenure. Originally made up of singer/songwriter Kevn Kinney on guitar and vocals, Tim Nielsen on bass, and Paul Lenz on drums, the band's debut was the timeless hard rock/bluegrass fusion Scarred But Smarter (1986) on 688 Records, the label that grew out of the punk-era Atlanta club of the same name. The band followed with Whisper Tames the Lion in 1988 for Island, and replaced Lenz with Jeff Sullivan on drums. There were high hopes for Drivin' n' Cryin' at the time due to the success of R.E.M.; all things Southern were tipped to become the next big thing. But the band's uniquely Southern spin on rock was lost on the rest of the world.
Persevering with Mystery Road, with the addition of R.E.M. guitar roadie Buren Fowler on lead guitar, the band didn't alter its style all that much. For Fly Me Courageous (1990), the band finally took on the heavy metal mantle and ended up with a good hard rock record, with the odd folk track thrown in. The result was perhaps shocking and less than fashionable in the years when alternative music was just coming into its own. The greatest strength of Drivin' n' Cryin' was as a live band, as they toured tirelessly around the South, drawing an enthusiastic, college-age audience. A Drivin' n' Cryin' show in Atlanta had to be seen to be believed -- the sound of the crowd singing along would actually drown out Kinney's own unusually strong voice. That same year, Kinney recorded the beautiful acoustic folk LP MacDougal Blues for Island.
Smoke, the next album from Drivin' n' Cryin', was released by Island in 1993 and ultimately finished the band's liaison with the label. It was followed by another, even sparer solo album by Kinney, Down Out Law (Mammoth) in 1994. He accompanied his solo releases by touring with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, who produced the first album, while he and the band also filled the gap between their fifth and sixth records performing acoustic dates throughout the South.
By the time the more gentle Wrapped in Sky, the band's Geffen debut in 1996, hit the shelves, Drivin' n' Cryin' were nearly forgotten -- lost in the void where many bands of their generation would find themselves in the wake of grunge. Kinney, Nielsen, and Sullivan held strong -- with the addition of Joey Huffman on keyboards for Wrapped in Sky. Fowler left the fold shortly thereafter, but the band continued to record, releasing the self-titled Drivin' N' Cryin' in 1997. A live set, The Essential Live Drivin' n' Cryin', showed up in 1999. Next up was a four-song EP, Detroit City Rock, in 2003, followed by another studio album, The Great American Bubble Factory, in 2009.
Embracing the immediacy and thematic possibilities of the EP format, the band formed its own label, New Records, and began issuing a series of five-song EPs, beginning with Songs from the Laundromat in 2012. A second EP, Songs About Cars, Space and the Ramones, also appeared in 2012. Early 2013 brought the third of four planned EPs Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock, a collection of throwbacks to the early days of garage and 60's psyche. ~ Denise Sullivan & Steve Leggett