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Mike Ness

Cheating at Solitaire – 1999 (Time Bomb Recordings)

Reviewed by James Mann

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CDs by Mike Ness

Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness decides to dance with who brought him on his debut solo release. Raised on Johnny Cash and roots rock, Ness brings a punky edge to this countrified set of songs.

Starting with "The Devil in Miss Jones"- a re-writing of "Ghost Riders In the Sky" that tells a sad tale of a wasted life and moving onto a rocking cover of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice," Ness' voice is rough and engaging - very compelling as it propels the record along.

Covers of "Long Black Veil" and Hank's "You Win Again" are well done, but it's his originals that work the best. They create a convincing image of a guitar-wielding desperado - "Misery Loves Company" (with guest vocals and guitar from Bruce Springsteen) or "Ballad of a Lonely Man" paint vivid pictures of a man standing tall in the saddle. Too country to be punk, too rowdy to be Nashville, Ness ends up being simply himself. Works like a charm.