Originally created 12/08/00

Rocker prefers to be folksy



Kevn Kinney, musically speaking, lives two lives.

One is as a rocker, fronting Drivin' n' Cryin', the band he has called home for more than 15 years.

His other existence is slightly more understated, road-dogging from town to town with only an acoustic guitar and the folk-infused songs from his three solo albums. It's a life that will find him in Augusta Saturday night, headlining an evening of acoustic music at the Soul Bar on Broad Street.

"The folk thing is really where I want to be," he said in a telephone interview. "It's something I'll be able to pull off when I'm 65, and I'm not sure I'll be able to pull off rocking and screaming at 65.

"It's like Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. You don't listen to their old records and say, `Oh, that's when they were in their prime.' I love that those guys are maturing, and that's where I would like to be."

Mr. Kinney's latest solo album, The Flower and the Knife, is a subtle blend of the rock, bluegrass and folk that have always formed his distinctive songwriting style. Singing over simple instrumentation in a world-weary voice, Mr. Kinney has often been labeled with the "Dylan-esqe" tag. Rather than shun the association, Mr. Kinney embraces it, including Mr. Dylan's Ballad of Hollis Brown and I Shall Be Released on the album. He also gives an acoustic reworking to two Drivin' n' Cryin' classics, Scarred but Smarter and Straight to Hell.

Mr. Kinney says he's not quite ready to call it a day with Drivin' n' Cryin', but he is getting to the point where he enjoys the subtle aspects of solo work more than the foot-to-the-floor approach a rock band takes.

"The solo stuff is a little more controllable," he said. "In the rock thing, 50 percent of the sound is about volume and power. Sometimes those words can get through, but they are more sporadic. The folk stuff tends to be more lyrically based, more subtle. It's more like driving with me in my car than the circus coming to town."

While Drivin' n' Cryin' still packs houses in the Southeast with appreciative fans who join in on sing-along choruses, the band never quite broke into the national spotlight, despite having the backing of major label Island Records.

"I'm not trying to be famous," Mr. Kinney said. "I'm proud to be part of a regional band. They seem to be something that has been lost. I remember growing up (in Wisconsin) and people talking about CCR and how they were a California band and how Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and Cheap Trick were Midwest bands. I'm proud to be in a Southern band."

For Mr. Kinney, playing music has never been about fast cars and groupies and the other trappings of the rock-star lifestyle. He wants to make connections, something he contends happens less often in a society content to live in its Internet cocoon.

"That's my cause for the year," he said. "Getting people away from their computers and out of their houses. Put some clothes on and get out of the house! Interact with people.

"I want people to know that they are not alone, that they shouldn't be alone. We are all children of America, and we are sharing a community. We are all part of the same township, and we all understand each other. That's what I want my music to say, because when somebody understands you that's entertainment."

On stage

Who: Kevn Kinney, with Galen Kipar, Jennifer Daniels and Patrick Blanchard

When: Doors open at 8 p.m., first act at 10 p.m. Saturday.

Where: The Soul Bar, 984 Broad St.

Phone: 724-8880

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.