Drivin' N' Cryin': Kevn Kinney (vocals, guitar, harmonica); Buren Fowler (guitar); Tim Nielsen (mandolin, bass, background vocals); Joey Huffman (keyboards); Paul Lenz (drums, background vocals).
Additional personnel: Anton Fier (drums); Michele Malone (background vocals).
Producers include: George Pappas, Anton Fier, Kevn Kinney, John Porter, Kosmo Vinyl.
Compilation producers: Mike Ragogna, Kevin Flaherty.
Recorded between 1986 & 1997. Includes liner notes by Kevin Flaherty.
Digitally remastered by Elliott Federman (SAJE Sound, New York, New York).
Personnel: Kevn Kinney (vocals, guitar, harmonica); Buren Fowler (guitar); Tim Nielsen (mandolin, background vocals); Joey Huffman (keyboards); Paul Lenz (drums, background vocals); Anton Fier (drums); Michele Mais (background vocals).
Photographers: Chris Cuffaro; Emmett Martin; Jay Strauss; John Stoddart .
Atlanta's Drivin' n' Cryin' is one of the more perfect bands for Universal's spotty "ultimate" series, since all but one of their albums were recorded for either Island or Geffen, two of the mammoth label's sublabels. So instead of licensing tracks from other labels (which the "ultimate" series in the past has been reluctant to do to an adequate extent), all of Drivin' n' Cryin's best work can be efficiently represented here. Unfortunately, the strict chronological order that is followed here isn't necessarily the best way to present a group with as many diverse sides as Drivin' n' Cryin'. A mix of laconic country, folk, and bluegrass with hard-driving, occasionally metallic rock was the band's unlikely calling card. It was also probably the reason they never attracted a widespread audience despite tours opening for Athens buddies R.E.M., as well as Bob Dylan, Sonic Youth, Neil Young, and Cheap Trick, all of whom are influences on their sound. Like the original albums, the drastic shift on this anthology between their pounding electric side and shuffling acoustic side is frequently jarring. A compilation that transitioned more logically between the band's styles would have been far more listenable. Lead singer/lyricist Kevn Kinney's plaintive voice works perfectly on the less frantic tunes such as 1997's "Telling Stories" but also adds a tempering quality to raging rockers such as 1991's "Fly Me Courageous." When the band's two sides combined, as on a rugged blues-rocker like "The Innocent," the band found its niche and successfully juggled their varied influences. Left to their own worst instincts on pounding crunchers such as this album's one non-album track, a live in Atlanta "Toy Never Played With," and "Turn It Up or Turn It Off," the clunky, riff-based, virtually Kiss-style rockers never seem to resonate convincingly. But when they hit a groove as on the disc's predominantly acoustic final four tracks, Kinney's reedy yet emotional delivery and the band's sure sense of melody combine to produce music of rare intelligence, power, and grace. At 20 tracks and almost 80 minutes, this is truly the "ultimate" collection of Drivin' n' Cryin's work and an ideal introduction to a group whose unique approach wasn't always best served on their individual albums. ~ Hal Horowitz