Drivin’ ’N Cryin’ – Best Of Songs  [TrackList Follows] – Plowboy Records PLO-LP-1025 – audiophile stereo vinyl, 34:06 [5/12/15] ****1/2:

Indie rock band is impressive on this unusual greatest hits release.

(Kevin Kinney – guitar, vocals; Sadler Vaden – guitar; Tim Nielsen bass; Dave V. Johnson – drums;  with Cheeta Chrome – guitar solo and background vocals on Out Here In The Middle Of Nowhere; Takaya White – background vocals on Out Here In The Middle Of Nowhere)

Southern Rock emerged from its rock and roll roots with bands like The Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels and The Marshall Tucker Band. After the seventies, a new breed of Southern Rock began to appear. Independent musical groups like R.E.M, B 52s, Georgia Satellites, Black Crowes and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers developed their own sound. One of these bands was Drivin’ ’N Cryin’. They achieved a level of success with College radio stations. Their guitar-laden rock landed them recording contracts (first with Island and then Geffen). Founding members Kevin Kinney and Tim Nielsen have survived a number of lineup changes and maintained a solid fan base.

In 2012 Drivin’ ’N Cryin’ pursued another different path. In 18 months they recorded a series of ”Indie EPs”. Now they have decided to release a ten-song vinyl-only LP of greatest hits from those four EPS (Songs From The Laundromat: Songs About Cars, Space And The Ramones, Songs From The Psychedelic Time Clock and Songs For The Turntable) on Plowboy Records. It is scheduled to drop on May 12th. Packaged in a “kitschy” greatest hits artwork cover, ten representative tracks from this under-appreciated band can be heard on audiophile vinyl. The opening track, “Hot Wheels” is straight-ahead, accessible rock. With a tight basic rock format (two guitars, bass and drums), the themes that epitomize youthful angst (summer, girlfriend, etc.) are communicated with attitude. Tim Nielsen’s vocals are excellent. There is an element of grittiness in the guitar play. The fun continues on the rhythmic, jagged Ramones-like “Out Here In The Middle Of Nowhere”. This is music that will have everyone dancing around the house. On a more reflective note, “Turn” starts with a tight arrangement, but adds some interesting hooks, a repeat verse line, drum march-time and harmonic vocal finish. These subtle touches showcase their uniqueness.

Revisiting romance and school, “Strangers” exhibits some funkier grooves and subtle, atmospheric keyboard shading. The punctuated ending reinforces the succinct approach. The longest cut on the album, “Roll Away The Song” is an anthem of broken hearts and drinking whiskey, infused with infectious chords, tempo breaks and classic dual-guitar Southern Rock riffs. Despite its uncomplicated structure, the sound is textured. At times, Best Of Songs has the vibe of celebrating rock and roll roots. “Dirty” displays unflinching boogie-rock toughness like Z.Z. Top. Nielsen’s vocal prowess and the prominent guitar chords drive this number.  “Ain’t Waitin’ On Tomorrow” is more amplified, blues rock. Drivin’ ’N Cryin’ pays homage to the quintessential Indie Southern band on “REM”. This quirky pop tune has outstanding vocals, guitar/bass/drum crescendo and an unbridled enthusiasm for their heroes who “taught me how to do it”. The humorous last line repeat (“This is a public service announcement”) captures the self-deprecating spirit of the Independent music scene. They never let up. The final two songs are overpowering. “The Little Record Store Around The Corner’ is a relentless shoutout to no-holds barred rockers like The Stones and Mitch Ryder. The dense sonic mix is excellent. The lone instrumental, “Space Eyes” is a psychedelic concoction (an idiosyncratic, approximate Savoy Brown/Dick Dale hybrid with plenty of echo and reverberation).

Drivin’ ’N Cryin’Best Of Songs is an enjoyable thirty-four minute adrenaline rush. The 180-gram vinyl brings out the raw power of this band, probably more than a CD or download would.


Side A: Hot Wheels; Out Here In The Middle Of Nowhere; Turn; Strangers; Roll Away The Song

Side B: Dirty; Ain’t Waitin’ On Tomorrow; REM; The Little Record Store Around The Corner; Space Eyes

–Robbie Gerson