Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Billy Bob’s, Fort Worth, Texas, May 24th, 2013 Reviewed
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ are a group of Georgia apostrophe abusers that started in the mid-1980s with the Southern rock/folk blend that was having a resurgence at that time and then improved their commercial fortunes in the early 1990s when they began sprinkling sugar coated crunchy metal frosted flakes into their music. Their 1991 effort Fly Me Courageous went gold, with some listeners associating the title track with the Persian Gulf War. Retrospectively, their early recordings often sound like they are chasing the marketplace more than developing their own niche, but they have always been hailed as a fantastic live band.
2012 saw the release of a documentary on the band, Scarred but Smarter: (life n times of drivin n cryin), and the band released three EPs – one traditional effort, one focused on psychedelic rock, and the third with a punk rock flavor. After almost three decades of tourin’ n’ recordin’, D&C made what was surely their debut performance at Billy Bob’s. The purported World’s Largest Honky Tonk almost never has opening acts, but Motorin’ N’ Weepin’ were slotted as the warm up act for Cody Canada and the Departed.
First, let me rave a bit about their young lead guitarist, the enigmatically named Sadler Vaden. Whether the song required soulful blues, piercing slide guitar, tidal wave metal riffs and solos, or simple punk rock chords, Vaden hit every mark perfectly. Expert timing, wonderful tone. He knows when to lay back and when to take the reins. Rhythm section Tim Nielsen and Dave Johnson can lay down an easy groove and switch gears in a millisecond to a high octane stomp. Lead singer Kevin Kinney’s voice is unconventional – high register, a bit nasal, sometimes even chirpy – but he can effectively translate the emotions in the music.
Playing an hour-long set, the band started quickly with “Let’s Go Dancing” and then threw in some blistering swamp funk with “Honeysuckle Blue.” Only two numbers didn’t work – “(Whatever Happened to the) Great American Bubble Factory” is more of a slogan than a song and a just written tune titled “Where’s My Country Radio?” wasn’t ready from prime time yet. However, the audience requested “Scarred But Smarter” had the energy of CBGB’s era Ramones and the droll country tinged sinner’s lament of “Straight to Hell” is a perversely enjoyable sing along number. The band ended with a solid version of “Fly Me Courageous,” but the best moment of the night was the working class poverty dissertation on “Preapproved, Predenied.” Singer Kevin Kinney included a lengthy discussion during the song about how the rising costs of necessities like rent, clothes, and food have now completely swallowed discretionary spending from dual income families.
I bet he’s lived that.
Grade – A-.