Mike Ness, with Jesse Dayton
Before Social Distortion became one of the most successful and longest-running American punk rock bands, personifying outlaw cool (with a surprising sentimental streak) for an entire generation of latter-day greasers, its eventual frontman Mike Ness wore out the grooves of his Johnny Cash, Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival albums in his Orange County bedroom. And though his discovery of the Ramones and Sex Pistols kick-started Ness down the path to "Mommy's Little Monster," his love of the old masters never abated, and surfaced often in Social D classics such as "Prison Bound" and "Story of My Life"; of their peers, only X was as roots-conscious.
When the band went on hiatus after touring 1996's White Light White Heat White Trash — an interruption extended by the sudden 2000 death of founding guitarist Dennis Danell — Ness recorded 1999 solo debut Cheating at Solitaire, a set of originals and covers (Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, "Long Black Veil") that eased up on the punk pedal in favor of country, rockabilly and blues. Ever since, Solitaire and its 2000 all-covers companion Under the Influence (Carl Perkins, Marty Robbins, Wanda Jackson) have formed the backbone of Ness's periodic solo jaunts, with scattered Social D ringers — Influence closes with a countrified "Ball and Chain" — thrown in to keep the crowd happy. By the way, SD's seventh LP is due later this year, and mates Jonny Wickersham (guitar) and Brent Harding (bass) join Ness on the road. Opening is Jesse Dayton, itching to flex his roadhouse muscles after months of touring duets album Holdin' Our Own with Austin honky-tonk angel Brennen Leigh.
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