In Tune: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’

Atlanta’s blue-collar heroes return

Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ didn’t set out to take a twelve-year hiatus. For the decade and a half following its formation in 1985, the Atlanta band was tireless, putting out eight albums and touring with bands such as the Who, the Allman Brothers, and R.E.M. The success of 1991’s “Fly Me Courageous” and “Build a Fire”—along with the band’s signature blend of Southern rock, folk, alt-country, and hard rock—kept fans lining up for more.

On September 10, 2001, vocalist Kevn Kinney, bassist Tim Nielsen, guitarist Mac Carter, and drummer Jeff Sullivan (later replaced by Dave V. Johnson) entered the studio to begin recording their ninth album, an optimistic ode to the glory and challenges of blue-collar life. The next day the terrorist attacks occurred, and Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s hopeful message suddenly seemed woefully out of place. The album was shelved.

In the ensuing years, Kinney and Carter worked on solo projects, while Johnson played with Nielsen’s pop-punk creation, Kathleen Turner Overdrive. But when the quartet reunited for a few shows last year, their bond made it clear it was time to resurrect DNC. It also helped that Kinney had something to say: “I had this vision in my head, a bunch of songs about America, about what’s happening.” The result, (Whatever Happened to the) Great American Bubble Factory, was released on September 29. “The album is about people struggling right now, working-class people,” Kinney says. The new album’s sound is classic DNC, including the guitar-heavy rock anthem “Detroit City”—the album’s first single and one of the few tracks saved from 2001. DNC performs at Athens’s 40 Watt Club on October 16.

Photograph by Ruth Leitman