Drivin’ N’ Cryin’: Rockers aren’t ready to rest on 33-year career

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Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 at The Spinning Jenny in Greer. Photo provided

When it performs Saturday at The Spinning Jenny in Greer, the veteran Atlanta quartet Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ will be more than happy to play the hits.

You’ll hear the towering riff of “Fly Me Courageous,” the chugging rock-radio hit “Build A Fire,” and the immortal neo-country ballad “Straight To Hell,” along with all the other staples from the band’s 33-year career.

But bassist Tim Nielsen, who forms the nucleus of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ alongside singer-songwriter-guitarist Kevn Kinney, is quick to add that the band isn’t a nostalgia act and, if he has anything to say about it, it never will be.

“It’s about keeping the story interesting,” Nielsen says. “It’s about keeping our fanbase engaged and having a reason to go on the road. It’s not just ‘we’re going on the road to play the hits.’ We’re going to play the hits, but the goal is to be promoting something.”

In this case, the band is promoting a new, limited-edition 45 rpm single containing a rerecording of its pile-driving rocker “Powerhouse” with “Livin’ By The Book’” on the B-side. But that’s just one of many projects the band has in the pipeline.

Members are finishing up a new collaborative album with Aaron Lee Tasjan, a fast-rising alt-country artist who was once Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s lead guitarist. The band recently reissued its cult-classic 1989 album “Mystery Road,” which is where “Straight To Hell” first appeared. There’s even a tentative plan to release Kinney’s 1990 solo album “MacDougal Blues” on vinyl for the first time. Perhaps most notably, after decades of being a band too country for rock radio and too rock for country radio, the band’s friend, Darius Rucker, took “Straight To Hell” into the mainstream country Top 40 (with some help from Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan on vocals) when he released it as a single from his 2017 album “When Was the Last Time.”

“It took a lot of cojones for Darius to be a black mainstream country singer in the South singing a song called ‘Straight To Hell’ and expecting it to get played on country radio,” Nielsen says with a laugh. “It was crazy for him to try to pull that off. But it’s going to help new people discover all of our other music, which is the bottom line.”

The flurry of activity is part of a five-year plan of releases and other projects that Nielsen and Kinney have undertaken since deciding to manage the band themselves, a move Nielsen says is one of the best decisions they’ve ever made.

“We make our career decisions together, and we’ve experienced a lot of great success over the past couple of years, both musically and as a business,” he says. “I think it’s partially because we’ve cut out all of the BS that these managers we’ve had in the past have tried. If we decide we want something, we go get it. We figured out how to get ‘Mystery Road’ rereleased. We’ve maintained strong relationships with guys like Darius, who has always been a fan, so he decided to cut ‘Straight To Hell’ and get it on mainstream country radio. The story keeps on going; we don’t want to be a band that rests on one or two hits from 25 years ago.”

And at the heart of it all is the relationship between Kinney and Nielsen, a friendship and partnership that’s lasted for nearly 40 years.

“It all started when I saw this guy pop up onstage at a club one night and play a couple of songs,” Nielsen says with a laugh. “I went up to him after he came offstage and said, ‘Who are you? That was really great! You sound like Ray Davies and you look like Johnny Ramone!’ He played me a cassette of his demos, and they were really great, and I suggested that we should do something. And for some reason, we’ve really just continued to click together.”

If you go

  • What: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, with Rust
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27
  • Where: The Spinning Jenny, 107 Cannon St., Greer
  • Tickets: $17 in advance, $20 at door
  • Info: 864-469-6416, https://www.thespinningjennygreer.com/
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