Acclaimed southern rock band Drivin N Cryin are set to embark on a European tour which will see them perform across Spain, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. The band released their new Aaron Lee Tasjan-produced LP Live the Love Beautiful on 21 June, which has been met with acclaim at outlets ranging from Rolling Stone, Paste, Billboard and PopMatters.
Drivin N Cryin is a rock ‘n’ roll institution. From their days as MTV-approved radio stars to their rebirth as DIY icons of the American underground, they’ve spent three and a half decades building a legacy grounded in sharp songwriting, southern stomp, and loud, life-affirming shows. Trends have come and gone. Bandmates have done the same. But Drivin N Cryin continues to hit the stage night after night, guitars in hand, amplifiers on full blast, delivering the soundtrack to a self-made rock & roll saga that’s ever-unfolding.
That saga reaches a new high-water mark with Live the Love Beautiful, the band’s first full-length album since their 2009 working-class rock opera, Whatever Happened to the Great American Bubble Factory. Produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan, the new record is an anthemic blast of full-spectrum rock & roll, with frontman Kevn Kinney singing about the troubled times of modern-day America; the trials and triumphs of an adulthood logged on the road; the benefits of appreciating the small things in life; and even the legacy of the Faces’ late keyboardist, Ian McLagan. Together, these 11 songs connect the dots between the sounds that have shaped Drivin N Cryin’s career since the beginning, mixing together the jangle of folk music, the weirdo textures of 1960s psychedelia, the punky slash-and-burn of old-school rock & roll, and the sweep of Kinney’s southern ballads.
Live the Love Beautiful also shines a light on the band’s revamped roster, with guitar hero Laur Joamets — an Estonian-born instrumentalist who first moved to America to perform with Sturgill Simpson, making his debut on the singer’s Grammy-nominated Metamodern Sounds in Country Music — recently joining the ranks of Kinney, bass-playing co-founder Tim Nielsen, and longtime drummer Dave V. Johnson. He’s a welcome addition, widening the band’s dynamic peaks and adding nuance to their quieter moments. The lineup may be revised, but the beating heart of Drivin N Cryin pounds just as hard today as it did in 1985, when Kinney and Nielsen played their first show together.
One thing that has changed, though, is the production. Decades removed from the gated drums that pulsed their way throughout Fly Me Courageous, the band’s most commercially successful release to date, Live the Love Beautiful captures the energy and electricity of DNC’s live shows. Most of these songs were captured in a series of live takes at Welcome to 1979 Studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The mood was spontaneous and creative. More importantly, it was brotherly. Tasjan was already a close friend of the band, having toured the country for two years as DNC’s guitarist following the departure of Sadler Vaden. He hosted some of Love Beautiful‘s earliest songwriting sessions at his house in East Nashville and, months later, helped keep things flowing in the studio itself, encouraging the bandmates to plug in, turn up, and do what they’ve always done best: play together as a live band.
“Aaron knows me as well as I know myself,” says Kinney, whose voice — a mix of southern snarl, folksy croon, and rock-club rasp — remains just as signature to DNC’s sound as their larger-than-life guitar riffs. “He knows what people are expecting from us, and he knows what we’re missing. I love his songwriting, his voice, the way he makes records… and I wanted him to make our record in whatever way he thought best.”
Like Whatever Happened to the Great American Bubble FactoryLive the Love Beautiful kicks off with a populist anthem about everyday Americans, capitalist corporations, and the widening gap between the two. The song is “Free Ain’t Free,” and it’s an absolute banger, laced with a sweeping chorus and crashing power chords. From there, the album celebrates the slow, steady path toward a life free of addiction with “Step by Step,” gets moodily political with the MC5-sized swagger of “Spies,” and takes a countrified turn during “Over and Over.” There’s plenty of guitar crunch sprinkled throughout, including harmonized solos, interwoven riffs, and some expert slide guitar from Joamets.
“The album falls somewhere between Mystery Road and the EPs that we made with Sadler,” says Nielsen, who — like Kinney — grew up in the American Midwest before moving to Atlanta, where Drivin N Cryin was formed. “It covers all the Drivin N Cryin bases, from acoustic guitar songs to hard-rockin’ electric guitars. We’ve got Laur playing slide guitar, too, which we haven’t  really had on other albums, so this is also a step toward something new.”
“Straight to Hell.” “Honeysuckle Blue.” “Fly Me Courageous.” “Let’s Go Dancing.” Drivin N Cryin still plays those old-school favorites every night, nodding to the songs that helped build their cult following decades earlier. Thanks to Live the Love Beautiful, they now have almost a dozen additional signature songs in their arsenal — songs that double down on the best parts of DNC’s musical past while opening up new possibilities for the band’s future. 35 years after their formation, Drivin N Cryin is still moving forward at highway speed, chasing down new horizons, sharpening the legacy that’s already landed them in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. They’re scarred but smarter…and they’re nowhere close to finished.
“We’ve been fighting to be valid for so long,” says Kinney. “All I know is if you lost your record deal in 1993, would you have spent the next 25 years without a record deal, making your own records, traveling around in a van, playing bars and wherever else you can, just because you believed in what you were doing? Just because you loved it? Because that’s what we do. I think we’re America’s best-kept secret.”
Upcoming Tour Dates:
OCT 1 – Sala Rocksound – Barcelona, Spain
OCT 2 – Loco Club – Valencia, Spain
OCT 3 – Cave 77 S A – Madrid, Spain
OCT 4 – Rouge – Vigo, Spain
OCT 6 – O2 Academy – Bristol, United Kingdom **
OCT 7 – O2 Academy – Leeds, United Kingdom **
OCT 9 – Barrowland – Glasgow, United Kingdom **
OCT 10 – Barrowland – Glasgow, United Kingdom **
OCT 12 – Eventim Apollo – Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom **
OCT 14 – Hare & Hounds – Birmingham, United Kingdom
OCT 15 – O2 Apollo – Manchester, United Kingdom **
OCT 16 – Paardcafé – Den Haag, Netherlands
OCT 17 – Metropool Concert Hall – Enschede, Netherlands
OCT 18 – Poppodium Bolwerk – Sneek, Netherlands
OCT 19 – Rambling Roots Festival – Utrecht, Netherlands
OCT 20 – Podium Victorie – Alkmaar, Netherlands
** = supporting Hootie & the Blowfish