With Social Distortion's last album, 1996's "White Light White Heat White Trash," Mike Ness rededicated himself to punk-rock after years of dabbling in country. Now he's changed his mind again.
On his first solo album, "Cheating at Solitaire," the Southern California singer-songwriter sports a cowboy hat and a whole lotta roots. When not singing Bob Dylan ("Don't Think Twice, It's All Right") or Hank Williams ("You Win Again"), he's teaming up on a duet with Bruce Springsteen or trading guitar licks with Brian Setzer or X-man Billy Zoom.
Although most of "Cheating at Solitaire" is twangy, Ness also explores the blues and keeps his punk edge handy. Whatever musical form it takes, the singer's principal theme is regret. "The days of wine and roses/ Were a long time ago," are the album's opening lines, and from there Ness goes on to announce that "Misery Loves Company" but that he's "No Man's Friend." Since Ness is such a classicist, it's understandable that he has nothing new to say about anger and isolation. As the caterwauling guitars of "Charmed Life" demonstrate, however, for Ness sorrow and surrender are not the same thing.
Appearing Tuesday at the 9:30 club with Deke Dickerson. To hear a free Sound Bite from Mike Ness, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8106. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)