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Sun Tangled Angel Revival

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Album Review

On his fifth solo album (for his fifth label), Atlanta's on-again/off-again Drivin' N' Cryin' frontman edges closer to combining the ragged country and raging hard rock of his band into a more unified whole. "Welcome to the sun tangled angel revival," he sings appropriately on the opening track, both introducing the listener to his new outfit and to a mix that encompasses his Southern rock, blues and country roots. The band sizzles regardless of what style of music Kinney throws them, but revels in a mid-tempo Stonesy rock & roll somewhat similar to the Georgia Satellites, Gov't Mule and, not surprisingly, his own Drivin' N' Cryin'. As of this album's 2004 release, he is 14 years into a sporadic solo career and nearly 20 as a professional musician. That road-hardened experience adds a jagged edge to Kinney's already high-pitched, croaking voice. But his torn, nasal vocals — admittedly an acquired taste — bring an honesty and world weary quality to these songs of Southern discontent. It's an everyman sound, both proud and tired and without it the gutsy music, played loose but crackling by his tough, talented band, wouldn't resonate nearly as effectively. The gospel hinted at by the album's title takes flight in the acoustic "In the Land of Plenty," a dusty Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan-styled ballad that plays off his acoustic and religious roots without sounding like either. The country-ish tale of "This Train Don't Stop at the Millworks Anymore" also recalls Guthrie, but with an updated slant about outsourcing jobs, highlighted by crying pedal steel guitar and perceptive short-story styled lyrics. Like Dylan's best work, it is detailed yet universal and is the albums literary centerpiece. Ballads such as the yearning "Everything's So Different Now" combine sweeping Beatles-ish pop and harmonies with a more rootsy, Americana earthiness that never seems affected. The one-two punch of the instrumental "The Great North Myrtle Beach Pancake Massacre" which fades into the raging Gov't Mule blues-rock of "Madmen Blues" provides a nearly ten-minute stranglehold of swirling Southern rock as swampy, rocking and raw as anything from Drive-By Truckers. The primarily spoken word, seemingly free-form poetry of "Epilogue Epitaph in A Minor" also finds its Dylan-ish heart to close out this album of flinty, boozy but thought-provoking American folk-blues-rock from one of the genre's most creative and under-sung heroes.

Biography

Born: Milwaukee, WI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Kevn Kinney was the lead singer of the Atlanta rock band Drivin' n' Cryin', but since the band's 1986 inception he's released some spare acoustic records on his own, often collaborating with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. MacDougal Blues for Island in 1990 announced the rocker's arrival on the folk scene with the engaging title cut and nine more acoustic tracks produced by Buck and mostly played by his bandmates from Drivin' n' Cryin'. Though often cited as a working-class lyricist, Kinney cannot easily...
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