If you are familiar with Kevn Kinney from his work with Atlanta rock band Drivin’ and Cryin’, you will immediately recognize and appreciate this CD. If not, A Good Country Mile will be a great introduction to his roots-rock style, given a special kick by his collaboration with Anton Fier’s group, The Golden Palominos.
As producer, Fier has done a great job of adding a forceful, yet surprisingly light-handed touch to Kinney’s music, so that the sound is bolstered but not overwhelmed. Kinney’s harp still wails, and acoustic guitars still feature prominently, mixing with electric in a nicely layered way. The sound maintains Kinney’s trademark rough edge, suited perfectly to his vocal style and lyrics.
Kinney’s voice is like weathered leather, a bit worn and world-weary, with a country tinge to it, and his lyrics reflect that been-around-the-block sound. If you didn’t know he honed his craft in the Deep South, it would not take you long to figure it out.
“Never Gonna Change” is classic Kinney, full of emotion and lots of twang, while “Gotta Move On (Again)” is a hard-rocking, wake-you-up and shake-you-up number, quite different from its original Drivin’ and Cryin’ incarnation. It is followed by “Challenge,” which begins as a rock ballad and ends in classic Kinney storytelling style, complete with slide guitar. The next cut, “Hurricane” is another great storytelling song which is enhanced by some amazing guitar and harmonica work.
“Wild Dog Moon Part 2” is a song Kinney did with Drivin’ and Cryin’ and reminds me very much of Bob Dylan’s work on “Tangled Up in Blue.” It has that same rhythmic, street-preacher cadence. This is one of my favorite songs on this CD.
The title song, “A Good Country Mile,” is a very simple, clean tune with great harmonies and beautiful lyrics: “I’m just outside of heaven/About a good country mile.” It’s about those living a life without public distinction but with quiet contentment and a sense of community.
Next is the country-folk ballad, “Set in Stone,” and that leads into the amazing “Bird,” which Kinney originally performed on his solo 1994 CD, Down Out Law. His version is much different from that stark arrangement, with great harmonies, and a nuanced and layered guitar accompaniment that complements the lyrics. Then there’s the break after a few verses that turns the song into a classic Southern style rock jam, and then goes back to the evocative lyrics and to the jam again. It is just a brilliant song altogether.
“In the Land of Used to Be” sounds like you could drop it into any Drivin’ and Cryin’ album and it would be right at home. Nobody does this sort of soul-baring song better than Kinney and it has just the right country/Southern rock ballad sound to spotlight the words.
Closing out the CD is “Southwestern State,” a cover of a Seven Mary Three song that is the perfect ending for this emotional musical journey. It is a sweet, sad, slow ballad perfectly suited to Kinney’s voice and style.
Altogether, this is a brilliant recording. If you have a taste for roots rock, or if you are a fan of Dylan, Tom Petty, Neil Young, or other singer-songwriters of that style, I will predict that you will like it at first listen. With each subsequent hearing, you will like it even more, until you will love it.