Our spotlight on vinyl listens to two early solo albums from Social Distortion front man Mike Ness, reissued on the Craft Recordings label.
Mike Ness - Cheating at Solitaire
This was the first solo release from Ness that was originally released in 1999; it has long been out of print on vinyl until now. Presented here as a 2-LP set in a nice gatefold sleeve, the effort is a mix of Ness originals and cover songs, all done in the style of the early rock, country and folk music that Ness heard before the punk era. So you have a sped-up take on Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice" nestled next to the twang-fueled original "The Devil in Miss Jones," and the steel guitar romp of original "Rest of Our Lives" adjacent to the Hank Williams chestnut "You Win Again." Some high-profile guests join Ness in the throwback fun; Bruce Springsteen appears on the rocker "Misery Loves Company," taking turns singing verses with Ness, and Brian Setzer plays on the psycho-strut of "Crime Don't Pay." Billy Zoom of X also appears on this 16-track effort and fans will have a ton of fun spinning both platters and discovering or rediscovering some fine work from Ness. Get it here.
Mike Ness - Under the Influences
As you might guess from the album's title, this one is a set of cover tunes, but unlike Cheating at Solitaire, Under the Influences is an homage to the vintage country music sound. It's a delight to hear Ness put his gravelly sneer to work on songs like Carl Perkins' weepy "Let the Jukebox Keep on Playing," a countrified take on rock nugget "I Fought the Law" and the story of an Old West gunfight that plays out in Marty Robbins' "Big Iron." Ness sounds like he's ready to cry in his beer on Harlan Howard's "A Thief in the Night" where Chris Lawrence ladles on sweet steel guitar riffs, and it's a down-home bluegrass fiesta when Ness tackles the Carter Family's "Wildwood Flower." To close the album Ness covers one of his favorite songwriters; himself. The album lopes back to the barn with a remake of Social Distortion's "Ball and Chain," done here as "Ball and Chain (Honky Tonk)." Now when fans play their Social D records they can listen for hints of the non-punk influences that Ness has always loved. Get it here.