From the title, it’s a little hard to know what to expect from Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s first album in 12 years, but opener “Detroit City,” makes it clear they still like to turn it up, with front man Kevn Kinney sounding a bit like Bon Scott. Paying tribute to Detroit, referencing local bands like MC5 and The Stooges as well as the decaying auto industry, it closes with, “Motown done left this broke-ass town,” providing a nice bridge to “(Whatever Happened to the) Great American Bubble Factory.” Despite the title, the word “bubble” is nowhere in the lyrics. It seems to reference the economic bubble that recently burst, which is dealt with in about half the album’s songs. The sound has a little bit of bubblegum as well, with more studio polish than is the norm for the band, even including horns. (It reminded me a bit of “Do You Remember Rock n’ Roll Radio?” by The Ramones.)
With the exception of “I See Georgia,” which deals with being on the road and music bringing home to you, the best songs here deal with economic hardship (The softer “Midwestern Blues” and “This Town” are great examples and could fit comfortably next to songs by The Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo.).
The rockers may have a more polarizing effect on listeners. Drivin’N’ Cryin’ did come up in the late eighties; a couple of the songs witness to that (“Let Me Down” and “I Stand Tall”). That part of the sound will probably be welcomed by some listeners but may be a hindrance to others. Ultimately, you can hear bits of past Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ albums, but the whole still sounds like a band that continues to evolve. The eclecticism in their sound can be heard just by listening to the last two songs. While “Trainwreck” is a hard, driving rock song, the album’s closer “This Town” is a bit of folksy Americana (complete with banjo) about a once thriving town now dying because industry has left (“This Town” also has my favorite lyric on the album with, “I’m leaving. I’ve got my get-up and my go.”). Hard rock, southern rock, punk rock, folk and country are all represented in their sound in differing amounts. While the variety does make the album a little hard to make sense of as a whole, it’s a minor complaint, as it does not feel forced.
Fans of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ will no doubt be pleased, not that they needed my approval.