The revivalist

Singer/songwriter Kevn Kinney re-energizes his sound

I'm the independent's independent independent, says Kevn Kinney. For nearly 20 years, the Wisconsin-born singer/ songwriter/guitarist has been plying his trademark blend of raw, Ramones-fueled rock and equally raw, Bob Dylan-inspired acoustic folk. He's done it locally and internationally, on tiny indie labels and mammoth majors.

A couple of years ago, Kinney, who bides his time in both Atlanta and Athens, faced a sort of stagnation crisis. After four albums of solo material and eight with steadily evolving versions of his band Drivin' n' Cryin', Kinney says he felt limited by his two performing choices. "I had been doin' the folk thing for quite a while, so I had two options: folk or Drivin' n' Cryin'," he explains. "And Drivin' n' Cryin' is a show, which means you have to do 'Build a Fire' and 'Fly Me Courageous' and the post-'91-era stuff as well as a little early stuff. I wanted to try to do something that was along the lines of the original Drivin' n' Cryin': a three piece, but with an extra guitar player or maybe some organ."

With no real plan to start a new band, but a definite desire to chart new territory, Kinney and DNC drummer Dave V. Johnson headed to Chase Park Transduction over a year ago to record some demos with producer David Barbe, who has manned the boards for Sugar and Drive-By Truckers. "I had never worked with David," Kinney says, "and I'd wanted to, so we started doin' the demos and it just progressed. Finally, we said, 'Let's turn this into an album.'"

The result is Kevn Kinney's Sun Tangled Angel Revival a mouthful of an album title that also serves as the band name for his new hybrid project. Comparisons to his past are inevitable, but the Revival adds a little more dimension to Kinney's familiar sound, radiating with a jangling shimmer and the occasional country-gospel twang.

Released 40 years after Another Side of Bob Dylan, Kinney's Revival has unintentionally mirrored his hero's 1964 record. Back then, Dylan was also taking stock of his career and added some much-needed dimension to his trademark sound.

The album, released in late September on the upstart Texas label Compadre Records, opens with the band's theme song, "(Welcome to the) Sun Tangled Angel Revival," a simmering ode to travel and general wanderlust. Kinney then creates a psychedelic wheel o' sounds on the album, which includes the jangle folk of Mystery Road-era "Fly Your Flag High," some cautionary and cinematic storytelling on "Everything's So Different Now," and the epic "This Train Don't Stop at the Millworks Anymore." "Epilogue Epitaph in A Minor," a freeform beat poem, is his "Motorpsycho Nightmare." But rather than go Dylan's comic route, Kinney amusingly embraces his love of blue-collar, no-frills roots.

The music on the album has the shambling autumnal beauty of Dylan's mid-'70s Rolling Thunder Review. That is thanks to Gibb Droll's restrained yet bluesy guitar, the funky basslines of Bryan Howard and tasty keyboard flourishes from Joey Huffman (a veteran of several DNC performances). Guest spots from pals Edwin McCain and Dave Schools don't hurt, either.

The local CD release shows will feature a slew of the players from the album and probably a few surprise guests. Continuing the blurring of his solo and band material, he says the Revival will include some old favorites from the Kinney canon of tunes. And yes, that means some Drivin' n' Cryin' favorites. "There're all songs I've written," he says. "We don't plan the show at all; we just play whatever we feel at the time."


Kevn Kinney's Sun Tangled Revival CD release party is Fri., Oct. 8, at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, and Sat., Oct. 9, at Smith's Olde Bar. See www.kevnkinney.com for more information.