Monday, November 22, 2021

Break/Broken: Broken Hearts and Auto Parts

Kevn Kinney: Broken Hearts and Auto Parts

Somehow, I almost completely missed Drivin’ N Cryin’, a band that emerged from Atlanta in the mid-1980s. Probably because they started after my college radio days, and because I don’t think they got much airplay in the northeast. But at some point, I heard the song, “Broken Hearts and Auto Parts,” by Kevn Kinney, who was the lead singer of the band, and I really liked it. (Which led me to investigate some of their music). 

It’s a profoundly sad song, and the title is explained by the very first line: “Ain't been the best year so far...I lost my girl, I lost my car.” And the song continues with a litany of loss and sadness, leading to a remarkable catchy chorus, despite its wistfulness: 

It's been broken hearts and auto parts and everything between.
I was on the move and in a suit, and on the silver screen.
Where I could hide for days, and live inside my dreams.
It's been broken hearts and auto parts this year.

Drivin’ N Cryin’ put out music through the nineties before taking a break, reforming in the late 2000s and releasing an album in 2009 and a series of EPs in 2012-2013. At that point, guitarist Sadler Vaden joined the band for a spell, before leaving to join Jason Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit, and a new album was released in 2019. Kinney’s solo career also continued through the 90s and 2000s, and his most recent release, with a version of Golden Palominos, A Good Country Mile, featured a cover of Isbell’s “Never Gonna Change,” (which was mentioned in a piece I wrote about Golden Palominos a few years back). 

As most of you who’ve read my work know, I’m a big fan of Isbell’s (and if you didn’t know it, the number of references to him in this piece about a Kevn Kinney song should clue you in a little). Back when the Georgia Senate races were the big political news, Isbell promised on Twitter that he’d do an album of covers of songs by Georgia artists if both Ossof and Warnock won. They did, and Isbell and his band, and a number of guests, actually made good on their Twitter promise (unlike the many people who have promised to leave the US if one or the other candidate won the presidency), recently releasing Georgia Blue. One of the tracks on the album is Drivin’ N Cryin’s “Honeysuckle Blue,” sung on the album by Vaden (who was not in the band when that song was released). And I was lucky enough to see him sing it the other night during a great set by Isbell and the 400 Unit: 

It will be interesting to see if the inclusion of “Honeysuckle Blue” on Georgia Blue leads to a revival of interest in Drivin’ N Cryin’ and Kinney, who have flown somewhat under the radar (although they are members of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame). 

FWIW, Isbell has promised to do an album of Texas covers if Beto O’Rourke wins the governorship. Which is another reason to hope that happens.


Hmmm, possibly straying to close to the bone with this one, given I am currently "unwell" and away from work. Let's just say the NHS is a tough frontline to be patrolling at present, as we balance the (I wish!) post-plague demand with the ongoing per-plague issues, with much less than pre-plague resources or manpower. I'm OK, no walls hit, being able to recognise the signs and to get the help, but it set me thinking about how popular music tackles this phenomenon. Sure, I need to call it stress and burn-out, but it is, is it not, as much a cipher as was/is nervous breakdown. (And I'm sorta guessing, that the myriad breakdowns in bluegrass are probably a whole different kettle, if a shame, as there are so many good ones.....)

19th Nervous Breakdown/Rolling Stones

Clearly the template was the Stones. Far from number 19 myself, it is a cracking little number, prescient and surprisingly forthright for its day, when Jagger was singing about more than just chicks and whips. Indeed, it was, almost, a subject they stuck with for a while, but I'm eschewing the mother's little helpers for now. But that's enough about me. Where else can we find psych advice?

Breakdown/Grace Jones

I am uncertain if, in the the original Tom Petty version, this was a song that fits this concept/conceit, with the lyric sounding an almost passive aggressive exhortation to a possibly soon to be ex, but I so much like the idea of Grace Jones imparting wellbeing advice. I think she might, too. So, that being sufficient, Dr Jones is yer girl. Mind you, she has form in this arena. And her remedy, is it not, actually half the battle. 

Breakdown/Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Kris Kristofferson strikes me as a fella who knows a demon when he sees one, and he certainly captures the sense of oft accompanying melancholia that can sit alongside anxiousness, shame and guilt. He wrote the above song, arguably better known in the version by the Everly Brothers, but I like this one, the poignant pairing of vocals as evocative as the siblings, maybe, courtesy Oldham/Billy, that little bit more. 

Breakdown/Jack Johnson

I think this is probably allegorical, a characteristically bouncy song from the onetime surf dude. I think he is better than he usually gets credit for, and if he can't say stop, I want to get off, well, who can? It is an insightful lyric, actually, and one that heightens my opinion of him all the more. For perspective, however, i offer the below, a truly ludicrous song that has my tongue as far in my cheek as it goes. If I were ever to worry, ol' Eddie has me convinced I ain't. Which makes this indulgence totally therapeutic, don't it?

Nervous Breakdown/Eddie Cochran

So much better am I now feeling, care of the healing power of rock and roll, here is something that also popped up, something I have on an odd compilation, Beginners Guide to Asian Lounge, which is actually pretty good. The mix of instrumentation and internal rhythms are quite a good representation of the maelstrom of conflicting emotions that congress when the candle has burnt too hard. Unless I am just hearing that as I need, but, either which way, all things being equal, normal service to be returned sooner or later

Emotional Breakdown/Mo Magic

(You liked the Earl Scruggs at the beginning too, did you?)