Cheating At Solitaire
Time Bomb Records

Fronting Social Distortion for 18 years has changed Mike Ness. You needn’t worry. He’s still a product of the L.A. punk scene and he wears his skin-soaked tattoos as proudly as the next guy. But last year, between Social Distortion albums, Mike felt the need to step out with a solo release. An enormous fan of traditional country music, bluegrass, and rockabilly, Ness put together a clever selection of self-penned stage hoppers entitled ‘Cheating At Solitaire.’

As a kid growing up on the streets of Fullerton, California, Ness found his influences in the rebel strains of country rock. The back cover of ‘Cheating At Solitaire’ reads: “as a boy his role models were not presidents and athletes; they were gangsters and junkie guitar players.” Johnny Cash, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Hank Williams, and the Stones were the daily diet for Ness as he cut his teeth on music’s wilder side. The great American punk scene hit a teenage Ness with the Ramones, the Clash, and the Sex Pistols sweeping across North America like pied pipers of rabble-rousers. Ness joined right in.

Social Distortion was Mike’s garage band that would eventually put him on the world stage. After nearly twenty years, Ness found his voice turning to the plight of working class America, and ‘Cheating At Solitaire’ gives him the platform to sell his goods. To make it truly authentic, Bruce Springsteen helps out with vocals on ‘Misery Loves Company.’ Brian Setzer also lends a hand on ‘Crime Don’t Pay.’ Yet for the most part, the solo effort gives Ness complete freedom to flaunt the inspiration he derives from his youth.

During his Philadelphia stop, Ness (and his smokin’ tour band) bulldozed through nearly the complete record set with a couple of Social D tracks added to spice up the night. Highlights were ‘Long Black Veil,’ ‘Crime Don’t Pay,’ ‘Rest Of Our Lives,’ and ‘Ballad of a Lonely Man.’