Entering his 15th year as Mike Ness’ guitar foil in Social Distortion, Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham steps out with a platter of his own. Social D fans hoping for a stopgap collection of roots-punk with a Stonesy patina until that band’s next LP will instead ﬁnd 10 wonderfully crafted tracks of Americana with a pronounced SoCal vibe.
This should come as no surprise considering the stellar lineup the long-time OC punk managed to secure for his solo debut. While all of Wickersham’s Social Distortion bandmates (save Ness) check in for appearances, the multilayered arrangements are also graced by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo Sr. and Steve Berlin, frequent Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt collaborator David Lindley, and Browne himself, who lends vocals to “Then You Stand Alone,” a taste of Topanga for the 21st Century. Pedal steel and slide whiz Greg Leisz and Attractions drummer Pete Thomas also feature prominently.
Like the music, Wickersham’s cathartic tales of life on the L.A. Basin’s seedier side (“One Foot In The Gutter” and “Avenues”) also reference the region. The standout “Clay Wheels” presents a narrator who, though a slow study, brilliantly offers those wiggy, wipeout-prone pre-’70s skateboard wheels (“I got mouthful of humble pie, dirt and gravel and weeds”) as a metaphor for his repeated foibles. Somehow, only in SoCal could a former skatepunk so successfully marry the imagery to bouzouki, mando, accordion, Dobro, bajo sextet, and backing vocals from Ms. Americana Julie Miller and Latin Grammy winner Gaby Moreno.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s June ’14 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.