There have always been signs that Kevin Kinney, vocalist n’ lyricist for Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, was more into the singin’ n’ songwritin’ part of his job than the band’s material let on. The Kinney who quietly performed his repertoire on his solo acoustic tours never quite jibed with the Kinney who pretty much headbanged on MTV with D&C. But in the band’s latest release, Wrapped in Sky, the more reflective Kinney is clearly in command. Blowing a Dylanesque harmonica and accompanied by former tour partner Peter Buck on mandolin, Kinney defines his musical mission early in the album: “I’ve only just begun/Telling stories.” Some of his stories (Kinney is credited with all of Sky‘s lyrics) are hits: His paean to lower-middle-class love, “Right Side of Town,” is the disc’s best cut. But where words don’t fail him, music sometimes does. The portrait of town mystic “Señorita Louise,” with its Caribbean rhythms and flamenco guitars, leaves a bad taste of Jimmy Buffet. Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ may have told the same sort of stories on earlier efforts, but until Wrapped in Sky‘s pickin’ n’ grinnin’ supplanted bang in’ n’ screamin’, nobody knew.

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