Music is a powerful force that can be something different to each and every listener. It is like a good friend or a therapist minus the hefty price tag. Music can be a way to escape, a way to reminisce, a way to release anger, tension or bad mojo. It can comfort one person while aggravating another. Or, it can just be fun. Music can be the most powerful when you find that ONE song or that ONE band that touches your soul. Their music becomes your comfort zone, your happy place, where you feel......at home. At least that is how I look at music. So when Kevn Kinney's vocals gently enter the picture on Drivin' N' Cryin's (DNC) latest album - Live the Love Beautiful - I can honestly say it is good to be home.
Over the 30+ years DNC has been churning out tunes the band has seen its ups and it's downs. With that being said, no matter where DNC found themselves along their career path the loyalty of their diverse fan base has stayed strong covering all ages, races, creeds and genders. The band's willingness to incorporate new ideas into their music while staying close to their familiar sound is what keeps fans around and adds new ones to the fold. With Live the Love Beautiful they continue to do just that taking their music to new places with recently acquired guitarist Laur Joamets and producer Aaron Lee Tasjan. Tasjan is the x-factor on this latest record. He knows DNC's & Kevn's music almost as well as they do and his added flavor to this batch of songs can be heard throughout the record.
The album opens with "Free Ain't Free", a track that is 100% what we all love from Drivin' N Cryin'. Jangly guitars fill the ears as it straddles the line between folk music and rock-n-roll, something DNC does so well. The tune draws you in with a passive melody and Kevn's monotone vocals before he wails "FREE AIN'T FREE" and the band comes in hard. Championing the blue collar underdog Kevn lets us know that nothing is free. You may not pay with money but you will pay with something. This tune explodes into a rock-n-roll extravaganza before mellowing out the way it came in.
They re-tool an older song - "Sometimes I Wish I Didn't Care" - giving it a full on folk music vibe. Kevin sings about the importance of being a caring person even when it would be so much easier to just not give a shit. The world is a better place with people like this in it. DNC takes to reminiscing with the laid back "Over and Over". Singing about simpler times, the joys of being young and first love they paint a vivid picture using moments that trigger these old feelings. Like finding Scarred but Smarter in a record store and having memories from 1985 fill your thoughts.
Several of the songs incorporate the sounds of the 70's. Not the disco or pop of that era but the underground chunky rock music from bands you would find in the Nuggets compilations at your local record stores. "I Used to Live Around Here" is like meeting an old neighbor as Tim Nielsen (bass) and Dave V. Johnson (drums) set the pace. Garage rock at its finest, "Spies" is a rocking tune that shows off Laur Joamets' guitar prowess and "If I'm Not There I'll Be Here" is a psychedelic wonderland of booming percussion and spacey guitar deliciousness. I could see this tune being a live number that leads to an all out never ending psychedelic jam much in the ways "Underground Umbrella" and "Indian Song" have become.
The music and lyrics from "What's Wrong With Being Happy" will put a smile on your face and Kevn offers sage words of wisdom on the pop infused "Step By Step". As Dave takes control of "Someday", it has everything you want in a power pop gem and the title track "Live the Love Beautiful" is a beautiful song that takes listeners on a melodious journey .
My favorite track from the album is the brilliantly written "Ian McLagen". Blues infused undertones provide the foundation as Kevn sings about the late Mr. McLagan and the last time he saw him in Austin. It is more than just an ode to this magnificent musician but offers up a bit of advice. Find something that makes you happy, something that fuels your fire, and keep on doing it. With McLagan, as well as with DNC, music is life, it is what makes life worth living. Kevn's lyrics “Some people, they do one thing / Talk about it all of their lives / But some people, they keep doin’ / It’s what keeps you alive,” hammers this point home. Dan Baird, a fellow musical journeyman, adds his distinctive vocals to the song giving it that something extra.
Drivin' N Cryin' continues to take their music in a forward direction. They could easily stick to releasing the occasional compilation and/or live album while playing the same greatest hits shows night after night but fortunately for us this is not in their plans. With Live the Love Beautiful the last ten years has seen the band deliver two LP's and four EP's all loaded with new songs that have and will become as coveted as "Straight to Hell", "Scarred But Smarter" or "Fly Me Courageous". The band has been infused with new energy and it is evident when you listen to the latest records or go see them live at one of their numerous shows. For whatever reason If you abandoned or tuned out Drivin' N Cryin' back in the early nineties then you have a lot of catching up to do. I suggest you start with Live the Love Beautiful and work your way back.
Now if you will excuse me I have a record to spin so if you need me I will be in my happy place.
(Live the Love Beautiful will officially be released on June 21st, you can order your copy HERE)