By Ellen Eldridge
The opening to “Never Gonna Change,” with its harmonica calling like a name in the wind, recalls Blind Melon until Kevn Kinney starts singing; at that point something that may sound like Drivin’ N Cryin’ cries out with the stylish amplification of a megaphone to the senses. To describe A Good Country Mile as either country or folk music does this album a disservice, but it’s not what one would expect from a rock record either. Kinney may be best recognized from his Atlanta-based rock band Drivin’ N Cryin’, but this collaboration with longtime friend Anton Fier (The Golden Palominos) grew out of numerous jam sessions in a smoke-filled, coffee-stained New York basement to feature new Kinney originals, covers of a couple much-beloved tunes, and a handful of fresh takes on vintage Kinney and Drivin’ N Cryin’ material. The basic tracks were recorded at Martin Bisi’s BC Studio in Brooklyn, overdubs and mixing were done at One East Recording with Fier producing.
This is not the first solo album of Kinney’s; it is only the first solo album since 2004’s Sun Tangled Angel Revival. Nor is this the first time Kinney worked with Fier or used the name Golden Palominos; the 1996 release Dead Inside covered ground with the Golden Palominos, and Fier played drums on and produced Drivin’ N Cryin’s 1987 release Whisper Tames the Lion. The friends fired up their connection when Fier produced the 2009 Drivin’ N Cryin’ release Whatever Happened to the Great American Bubble Factory.
Fans that have never dug deeply into Drivin’ N Cryin’ or for those who may have felt put-off by genre descriptions including words like “folk,” “harmonica,” or “Atlanta,” take heart in the fact that while many countrified elements exist on the album, the songs exhibit an energy like fire that can either smolder softly or blaze brightly.
The much more guitar-inspired work of songs like “Wild Dog Moon Pt. 2” calls out as more of a departure from previous folk-flavored work by Kinney, and the album includes appearances by featured musicians Chris Masterson, Jim Campilongo, Andy Hess, Tony Scherr, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Jon Cowherd, Eleanor Masterson, Leslie Mendelson and Lianne Smith.
The title track tones the release like a Valium and quiets the mood like a folk song at a campfire. The descriptions of seeing lights from a house on a hill with a white picket fence fit so well in distancing the narrator from heaven. The simply stated line, “You know, I’m just outside of heaven; about a good country mile,” really adds a melodic peace to tying together the songs on the album. Fans of old-fashioned country and folk will find a hometown hit in this song, but so will fans of vocals with just a touch of saddened angst.
Finally, the closing track, “Southwestern State,” deserves individual attention because, once again, listeners easily match both the mood and the vocals to Drivin’ N Cryin’ but those who haven’t heard the band will fall in love with the melodies, the guitar riffs, and the simple idea stated in the question, “Have I broke all the rules that I made…?” The guitar solo melts like butter over this line, truly calling to both the emotions as well as the sense of rhythm enjoyed in all music.
Fans near the Rome, Ga., area can check Kinney out live at 333 On Broad on February 25. Visit http://www.kevnkinney.com/ for more information.