Drivin N’ Cryin pay tribute to Ian McLagan — the electrifying keyboardist for the Faces and Small Faces, who died in 2014 — in this sneaky bar-band jam that bears his name. A track off the Georgia rock group’s upcoming album Live the Love Beautiful, “Ian McLagan” is framed by singer Kevn Kinney’s first-person lyrics, which vividly recall the last time he saw McLagan alive: schlepping his gear down an Austin alleyway in the rain.
Kinney uses the image to reinforce both the humble nature of McLagan, who played on classic-rock gems like “Stay With Me” and “Itchycoo Park,” and the musician’s dedication to the rock & roll grind. “Some people, they do one thing/Talk about it all of their lives/But some people, they keep doin’/It’s what keeps you alive,” Kinney sings.
“What is it about this art life that keeps me searching for more? Ian McLagan could’ve done a couple records with Small Faces and spent the rest of his life sitting in a bar talking about how great it was,” Kinney says. “But it seems to me he never stopped believing it — whatever it is that’s on the other side of this mountain that we are all driving towards.”
Opening with the simple, sparse strumming of an acoustic guitar that suggests a ballad is imminent, “Ian McLagan” pulls a bait and switch and evolves into a flailing mix of jangly guitars, punchy harmonica and producer Aaron Lee Tasjan’s moody organ. It’s a satisfying mash of sounds, leading to a Faces-like slide-guitar solo from Drivin N’ Cryin’s newest member, Laur Joamets (ex-Sturgill Simpson guitar hero), who delivers a cascade of weeping notes in line with his band’s name.
It’s the addition of fellow rock lifer Dan Baird that takes the track to the next level, however. The onetime Georgia Satellites frontman joins his unmistakable voice with Kinney’s on the final chorus to howl into the night, envisioning a world where McLagan is alive, well and still on the road.