Drivin’ N Cryin’ is a band that will always tell you the truth. They always have since the very beginning 24 years ago. What they tell you Monday will still ring true on Sunday. In a world of pretentious, image-conscious bullshit, realness and honesty have become exceptions to the rule. It is this honesty that is their appeal and what has kept them relevant all these years.
You believe in them because you believe them — and it always feels right to dig on truth. “When you are honest, you are free,” explains Kevn Kinney, DNC’s surprisingly humble and gracious singer and guitarist.
This raw honesty has always permeated every aspect of Drivin’ N Cryin’ — the look, lyrics, arrangements, production qualities, and musicianship. From the live shows to the heartfelt, beautifully ragged vocals and guitar solos, it reflects who they are as people. Kinney and his mates have never tried to be anything other than what they are. They’ve never tried to trick us with gimmicks or smoke and mirrors. They’ve never pretended to be something else.
Even if you’re not a big fan, you can respect what DNC is as a band. They are of the people, for the people, with the people. You can feel that sincerity. You can tell when a band is right there with you, on your level, on your side, rocking out with you, not to you. “We are true to ourselves and when you see us, it’s indigenous to what we do and hopefully, we get our point across, and we make a connection with you,” says Kinney.
This week, Drivin’ N Cryin’ kicked off a major tour to support the release of The Great American Bubble Factory (Vintage Earth), their first official studio album in 12 years. Kinney’s longtime musical partner Tim Nielsen — bassist and co-founding member — is solid alongside drummer Dave V. Johnson and guitarist Mac Carter (on board since 2001). The frontman couldn’t be happier.
“We’re really enjoying the fact that people are excited that there’s a new record out, and we’re really excited that we get to do this again,” says Kinney. “We don’t have any plans to write or record anything in the future. We’re just enjoying this moment for what it is.”
One of their very first stops is Saturday night at the Music Farm with Charleston’s own beloved ass-kickers, Leslie, for what is sure to be a bona fide Southern-fried rock ‘n’ roll get-down.
Over the past decade, DNC reconvened here and there to do some festivals and occasional club gigs, so technically, this new outing is not a comeback per se. “With Drivin’ N Cryin’, it’s very loud and very intense, and we just do it in short bursts to keep it fresh,” explains Kinney as to their intermittent Crazy Horse-esque, guerrilla style of operating.
In the interim, all the members have kept busy with side projects. Kinney wrote, recorded, and toured as a solo act and with several different bands he put together. He also took some time off to be with his father, with whom he was very close, who sadly lost a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. Kinney says that his father, a staunch supporter of the band, would be very happy with the fact that the DNC machine is back in full effect.
And the new album was well worth the wait. Bubble Factory is one of the best records they’ve ever done. It’s fully-realized, immediately accessible, and, you guessed it, totally honest. More drivin’ than cryin’, this thing rocks balls. The production is spot-on. It’s a raw rocker, with big guitars and big drums. Everything is up really high in the mix, nice and loud.
“I wanted it to tear your fucking head off,” Kinney says. Mission accomplished.
With the benefit of having played these songs out enough to know exactly what they wanted, Nielsen and Kinney moved quickly during the sessions resulting in a fabulously under-produced, straight-up rock ‘n’ roll record helmed by renowned pro session drummer Anton Fier.
Of course, there are a few softer moments that really work well to balance out the hard stuff. Though strife and heartache weaves in and out, overall, it comes across endearingly upbeat and positive. With some tasty B3 thrown in here and there and the big riffs that DNC are known for, the album is a mix of blue collar anthems, nostalgic themes, and small town stories — a Southern roots piece at its finest.
Bubble Factory sounds like a genuine Drivin’ N Cryin’ record. It feels like hanging out with an old friend. Every song will undoubtedly go over well live.
“We’re excited to play all those songs because the people are excited to hear ’em,” Kinney explains. “We are a time machine for many people. Music is a time machine. The Music Farm is such a cool rock hall. We love The Windjammer because it’s like a club show, but we love it that Charleston has the Farm for, like, the real concert thing.”
They will be rocking some of the new songs but are more than happy to play a lot of the older tunes that they know we love and want to hear.
And you can bet your ass they’ll be telling the truth.