Kevn Kinney – Aladdin Theater (Portland, OR)
For the last few years, Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’ frontman Kevn Kinney has come up to the Northwest during the holidays to visit his father and play a few shows with his old friend from Georgia, Peter Buck of R.E.M. Kinney’s folky, homespun songs and knack for storytelling make for wonderful solo performances. The addition of Buck and some of the Northwest’s finest musicians sitting in for a few songs or more provides for nothing short of a down-home hootenanny.
Previous years’ shows have seen Kinney teamed with members of the Walkabouts, Young Fresh Fellows, Pearl Jam and Pete Droge among others. This year offered up Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees) on drums, vibes, and upright bass, and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M.) on guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, and vocals.
The band took the stage, introduced as the Barrett Martin Quartet, for what would turn out to be a long evening of music. They started with versions of some of Kinney’s more folky material, “The Last Song of Maddie Hope”, “Catch The Wind” and the as-yet unrecorded “Trail of Seasons”. The latter could be the theme song for this show with its chorus: “It’s always nice to see an old friend again/How’ve you been, have you changed your name/It’s always nice to see an old friend again/Staying on the trail of seasons.” A medley of “House Above Tina’s Grocery” with “That’s Alright Mama” and “Mystery Train” featured spirited if somewhat sloppy performances by everyone involved.
Midway through the set, Kinney relinquished the stage to allow McCaughey to sing a few of his own songs and tell a few stories. Included were McCaughey’s contribution to the Georgia film soundtrack and a heartfelt rendition of “Tell It To the Raven” by the late Jimmy Silva, McCaughey’s collaborator and longtime friend. The latter part of the set featured its low points — renditions of Kinney’s harder rocking material. Although versions of “Smoke” and “Fly Me Courageous” were well-received by the crowd, they came off as plodding and out of place in this semi-acoustic format. An over-the-top version of “Leaving On A Jet Plane” (which Kinney explained was the first song he ever played for an audience — his grandmother) worked much better.
After over two hours onstage, Kinney left the appreciative crowd with a few words of wisdom and a promise to return next year. It’s always nice to see an old friend again.