It might be easy, sometimes, to take Drivin N Cryin for granted. After all, the hard-touring band has been in a perpetual residency in the southeast for decades.
Tybee Island and Savannah fans, however, are about to be reminded of what makes this legendary band, renowned for their blistering live shows, so enduring. Drivin N Cryin are hitting Tybee Post Theater for two nights with what promises to be exceptional performances from the band.
“The Tybee thing is a very special show,” Kevn Kinney, singer and guitarist for Drivin N Cryin said. “Tybee is the first place I moved to, the first palm tree I saw.”
Kinney moved south from Milwaukee in 1982 when he was 21. He drove down with his girlfriend, visited Graceland. got Elvis’ blessing, stopped to see his brother in Atlanta and then went to Tybee Island where they camped out for a month, enjoying the beach and lots of seafood.
“It’s a kind of homecoming for me, kind of a thanksgiving,” Kinney said. “They’re going to be special, retrospective shows.” Kinney plans to play something from every era and every record with perhaps a more acoustic show on Friday and a more characteristic rockin’ show on Saturday—the latter of which was sold out as of print.
“It really holds a special place in my heart,” Kinney said. “I might even record the shows and release them as a box set — 'Live at Tybee.'”
Drivin N Cryin have been going at it for 33 years. They flirted with mainstream success in the early '90s with major-label deals with Island and Geffen Records, videos on MTV, and a gold record. The spotlight may have shifted, but the band never stopped doing what they do best.
Kinney wonders if bigger, stadium-filling bands would be able to endure the way Drivin N Cryin have. “I don’t know, if they had waves of discouragement like we have had in the past, and still do sometimes, if they would get in a 15-passenger van and travel to Pittsburgh,” Kinney said. “Are they going to get the trailer and are they going to load it and drive it, set up their T-shirt stand, set up their amps?... We’ve been doing that for 33 years and I’m really proud of it and we’re still around and we still make great records.”
With 10 albums, several EPs, and a documentary to their credit, Drivin N Cryin earned a spot in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2015.
“We took the Hall of Fame thing seriously because I thought it was validation of the people that hung out there with us,” Kinney said. “We have some people out there who are cheering for us, so when we got in the Georgia Hall of Fame, they were like, ‘That’s the band I was telling you about. See, they ARE real!’”.
Drivin N Cryin are one of those bands that inspire and influence other bands. One of their most beloved songs, the sing-along ‘Straight to Hell’, was covered by Darius Rucker (with Luke Bryan, Charles Kelly, and Jason Aldean) last year and became a hit on country radio.
“All I know is I can’t put Drivin N Cryin on a marquee and not play ‘Straight to Hell’,” Kinney said. “It’s the most popular number every night. If I don’t play it, somebody is going to beat me up in the parking lot and I respect that.”
Every song by the band has a history and, when heard live, that history is palpable. “When I’m singing ‘Scarred but Smarter’ I’m not thinking about a paycheck,” Kinney said. “I’m thinking, I can see the kitchen and my brother teaching me how to do the chords... Every time I sing it I go, ‘Here we go again. Ah, it’s so good.’
“That’s why the shows are so fun for me,” Kinney continues, “because I’m taking myself back to when that heartbreak happened, or when I got a raise, or I had an epiphany.”
One of the joys of a Drivin N Crying show is that you always get something different. Kinney doesn’t use a setlist and doesn’t know what they are going to play three hours before the show. He only plays what he is in the mood for at any giving moment and that ensures that audiences always get the best version of the song.
“I prefer to not stick to the script,” Kinney explains. “I think that’s pretty much a statement about everything in the band.”