On their first two Island records, Kevn Kinney and his pals found an eclectic mix that kept listeners enrapt from track to track. They could glide smoothly from a flat-out rocker to a jangly guitar tune indigenous to the '80s Athens, Ga.-Atlanta musical axis.
But buckle your seats this time, folks, since things are a bit bumpier.
Drivin-n-Cryin seems to have made a slight trade-off, sacrificing some of its early eccentricity for a consistently harder edge. Most of the time, the gamble pays off. "Around the Block Again," for example, is one of those instantly engaging opening cuts that makes the blood pump faster than an aerobics workout. Then comes the Black Crowes-Guns n' Roses hybrid. "Chain Reaction," filled with that kind of unvarnished guitar power that's scarce. "Together" should make any R.E.M. fan wistful for their early stuff, with Kinney evoking Michael Stipe's thinner vocal style without just lifting it straight off the blueprint.
Kinney's flat-out approach doesn't always work. "Look What You've Done to Your Brother" comes off as merely ho-hum (it's never clear who's done what to whom, actually) and some faintly X-like intrusions don't help much. The last track. "Rush Hour," flirts with speed metal and threatens to come unhinged at any moment; things tighten up just in time.
On this album the band seems like a navigator who isn't sure where he is from moment to moment but manages to end up in the right place. (Island)