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Jonny Two Bags

Salvation Town – 2014 (Isotone)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Jonny Two Bags is singer/guitarist Jonny Wickersham's stage name. He may not be a household name, but if you've recently attended any of Social Distortion's rollicking live shows, you've surely witnessed the man's six-string work with the band, which he's provided since 2000.

Although he plays with the gravelly-voiced Mike Ness, you'd never confuse Two Bags - who sings with a smooth, Marty Robbins-esque vocal tone - for Mr. Ness. Ness may be a little bit country (yet a whole lot rock & roll), but Two Bags is a whole lot more country.

Although "Salvation Town" is filled with stereotypical old west images, as suggested by titles such as "One Foot In The Gutter" and "Ghosts," you know Two Bags is in the modern west - West Coast, that is - when he sings, "The electric cross above 101," which is a direct reference to an L.A. freeway landmark. With its slide guitar work, this particular track sounds more like a vintage '70s Jackson Browne travelogue than typical country and western. But then again, it better sound like that fellow SoCal native sings harmonies on it while his trusty guitarist David Lindley also plays along.

Although Two Bags doesn't add much lyrical originality to this familiar genre he pushes a few pleasure zones sonically. "Ghosts," for instance, is a down home fiddle tune while "Clay Wheels" features winning accordion and Dobro coloring. The first single, "One Foot in The Gutter," even adds a touch of soulful organ to its mix.

It appears as though Ness soaked up Johnny Cash's rebel spirit when he first explored the Man in Black's music, whereas Jonny Two Bags saturated himself in a much wider musical spectrum. "Salvation Town" is one consistently pleasurable country album. Thankfully, Jonny Two Bags has stepped away from his sideman role for a moment. This solo music shows a relatively unexpected - yet extremely pleasing - side of his musical personality.