While attending university in North Carolina during the early '90s, I had the privilege of seeing a handful of live shows headlined by the eclectic, rootsy college rock band Drivin' N' Cryin'. A few of those performances rank among some of the finest rock music concerts I've ever experienced, while a couple of others seemed a touch disinterested if not completely phoned in. Nevertheless, the Atlanta band has remained a constant personal favorite of mine through the years, the sum of which (sad to say) has now reached a full quarter-century since a few friends of mine introduced me to the joys of the band's late-'80s records Scarred but Smarter, Whisper Tames the Lion, and 1989's Mystery Road. I've always enjoyed the latter record, arguably, a bit more than its predecessors, mainly because of the wistful blends of riff-happy rock guitar with folk rock and country rock-inflected impulses.
One of my most memorable Drivin' N' Cryin' shows took place at a now-defunct club in Charlotte back in the fall of 1991, on a night when I ran into a female acquaintance from my college who had also traveled east for the show. I was convinced (and probably correct) that I didn't really have a chance of making a romantic connection with her, and yet somehow I ended up standing right next to her during the show - against the stage in a sea of bodies. This welcome, surprising development was soon interrupted by a drunken altercation with a bouncer that I instigated and for which I narrowly avoided physical comeuppance by melting smoothly into the crowd. But just before that bonehead moment, Drivin' N' Cryin' guitarist Buren Fowler plucked my temporary swaying partner from the front row and encouraged her to dance on stage during a crowd favorite, probably "Straight to Hell." I didn't really resent this move even then, and I remember it particularly fondly now given the sad news last weekend that Fowler died in his sleep at age 54 in his Athens home. After all, this impromptu stage invite (a la Springsteen's famous "Dancing in the Dark" Courteney Cox music video) was a moment of pure rock and roll joy. The image of Fowler rocking out on stage in a smoky club (when clubs were still allowed to be smoky) with his blond locks hanging down is probably always the way I'll remember him. Certainly not as the guy who ruined a college hook-up that resided only in my imagination anyway.
So which Drivin' N' Cryin' song serves as the best musical epitaph for Fowler upon his untimely death? That's a pretty excellent question, actually, as probably a half-dozen tracks from Mystery Road come to mind immediately as fitting remembrances. Ultimately, though, I find myself wavering between "House for Sale" and "Honeysuckle Blue," both of which boast some fine, contemplative lyrics about the passing of time and the unavoidable nature of constant change. Just because I must make a decision at some point, I'll go with the latter track, an inspiring blend of power guitars and gentle, meandering melody. I don't know if Fowler has located the "promised land" referenced in Kevn Kinney's lyrics here, but I have a feeling that most souls would be doing pretty well if they could ever find themselves "lost and found and lost again to the honeysuckle blue." Rest peacefully, Mr. Fowler; you are being remembered well this week, I'm sure, by more than just this particular wandering former college student with an authority issue.
- Sample or download "Honeysuckle Blue" here.
- Compare prices on Drivin' N' Cryin' CDs here.
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Album Cover Image Courtesy of Island