Social Distortion are no strangers to long lapses in-between albums. The long-running Orange County punk rock act took their sweet time in-between 1996’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash and 2004’s Sex, Love and Rock and Roll. This time, Social D only made their fans wait just over six years for a new album.
And much like Sex, Love and Rock and Roll, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes is definitely worth the wait.
The best way to describe Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes is to throw Social Distortion into a blender; add a pinch of Bruce Springsteen, a hint of Hank Williams, a dash of current tour mates Lucero and mix well.
What comes out is quite possibly Social Distortion’s masterpiece.
There are tracks like “Machine Gun Blues” and “Writing on the Wall” that feel as if they’d fit in great on Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell or White Light, White Heat, White Trash, and tracks like “Diamond in the Rough” and “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown” that would fit in great on Sex Love and Rock and Roll. Then there are tracks like “California (Hustle and Flow)” that feel more at home on Born in the USA than a Social Distortion album.
And while reading that may sound a bit contrite, it’s not. To be completely honest, Social Distortion sounds and feels more comfortable with folk and the blues than punk rock. Credit this to Social Distortion front man Mike Ness.
While he’s always been a bit of an old soul, Ness has aged like a fine bottle of scotch, flourishing into a healthy mix of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Johnny Thunders.
The two standout tracks on the album, the lonesome ballad “Bakersfield” (a track that Social Distortion had been performing live in recent years) and the up-lifting “Still Alive,” both perfectly showcase both Social Distortion’s range and Ness’ ability to simply but somehow eloquently put his feelings to paper.
And while heartache and hardship are nothing new to Ness, there’s something earnest and honest with Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes that in the past seemed either a tad bit childish or forced.
Ness and Social Distortion came out of their shell on Sex, Love and Rock and Roll. With Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes they’ve completely embraced country and the blues… and it’s about time.