The junk journal

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• Two Fridays ago, former Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ front man Kevn Kinney — the vibrant, underground, Southern songsmith by way of Milwaukee –stopped into Almost Blue for an intimate, acoustic performance. The engagement at the downtown record store was meant to highlight a superb new record, plus his band’s gig later that evening in Black Mountain.

Kinney has always been remarkably in tune with his kudzu-drenched backdrop, oozing Southern-rock attitude with a Dylan-esque insight into the heart of Middle America. Older tunes like “Bring Home the Bacon,” “Honeysuckle Blue” or even the title track from his new Sun-Tangled Angel Revival affirm Kinney’s catalogue as some of the most relevant musical snapshots of this American life.

Despite my predecessor’s apparent dismay and even disgust with the man’s solo appeal (see Random Acts, 6/30/04), Kevn Kinney remains one the most poignant practitioners of songwriting around.

The only problem with the after-the-work-whistle show at Almost Blue was that almost nobody showed up. This is apparently par for the course at these events, according to the folks at Almost Blue, as well as nearby Karmasonics owner John Ludovico. Ludovico has taken his own in-store gigs to the next level with his excellent Fall Concert Series, now in its 10th year. Menage, Jim Taylor and John Gernandt all appear on the upcoming roster there, while Almost Blue will have given it another shot with an in-store CD-release gig from Acoustic Syndicate on Tuesday, Oct. 12, before the band’s appearance this weekend at LEAF.

In addition, relative newcomers Good Music (on Broadway, downtown) and Harvest Records in West Asheville are doing their share of in-store gigs these days.

Supporting these typically free, intimate engagements seems a worthy way of showing our fine independent record stores that we appreciate live music around here the way everybody says we do.

DrugMoney, Vincent’s Ear, Saturday, Oct. 2.

“If we freak out and do some sort of Phish thing, will someone get me a beer?”

This rousing plea came from front man Fisher Meehan toward the end of another raging, late-night ass whooping from DrugMoney. But much to Fisher’s belligerent chagrin, no one felt obliged to buy him another PBR tallboy — especially not for noodling off into some long-winded jammy-jam nonsense (although new band mate and trumpet man Christian Woodall grabbed him another one anyway).

Rock stars need their tonics. So the next time this man calls out to an audience for a cerveza, somebody run get him one.

It’s a neat trick, really: The drunker Fisher gets, the harder he plays and sings. And despite the sauce, the freshly sprung front man and his new crew maintained top form throughout a blisteringly beautiful rock show. While these guys certainly embody some anti-hippie venom, they deliver the most honest rock show seen ’round these parts in a long time. Like it or not, they still wear the local crown. And if the music industry in this country has any sense of soul left at all, DrugMoney will not be playing five-dollar Vincent’s Ear shows much longer.

I never saw the old DrugMoney, a predicament ranking just shy of blasphemy in the eyes of many locals. So I don’t know the difference between the old band and the new one, and I don’t really care. Hell, I couldn’t understand most of what Fisher belted out all night anyway. This also doesn’t matter, because the spirit of the new DrugMoney equals pure, unadulterated, straight-from-Elvis magnificence.

A whole plate of fresh DrugMoney material was served up that night by Fisher and his swapped-out crew — and all of it came off superbly at the Ear. Song after song, the band delivered the three-to-six minute prototype fuel that set bands like the Pixies and the Smashing Pumpkins apart as college-rock geniuses. You will find that same flair in Fisher, alongside the spastic but brilliant drumming of Josh Carpenter and the statuesque and eternally hip bass play of Chad Pry, plus the occasionally perfect additions of Woodall’s trumpet.

This new lineup remains cash money, good for drugs or anything else you want to buy. And as long as we can keep Fisher off the wagon, there should be plenty of DrugMoney for a long time to come.

Score: On the stand-up-comedians scale, DrugMoney scores a Bill Hicks: dirty, poignant, essential. (And, for now at least, still under the radar, despite recent notoriety.)

[Asheville-based music writer Stuart Gaines, a contributing editor at An Honest Tune, can be reached at youknowthiscity@yahoo.com.]

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