As lead singer and songwriter of punk mainstays Social Distortion for the past 21 years, Mike Ness always possessed an innate understanding of the connection between punk and country. Social Distortion's music has always been thrashy and twangy, a marriage furthered by Ness' self-destructive past and rockabilly personal style.
With his second solo album release of 1999 (the first is an album of rockabilly influenced originals, Cheating at Solitaire), Under the Influences showcases Ness' love of roots music with a collection of tunes originally written by legends such as Hank Williams Sr., Marty Robbins, and Carl Perkins. The arrangements include traditional fiddles and autoharps, but it's tempered by buzzy guitars for a nice contemporary mix. With repeated listens, Ness' voice seems monotonous compared to the pure country croon of the original artists. But covers are all about interpretation, and what Ness lacks in vocal finesse he makes up for with feeling. These tales of heartache and regret are ideally suited to him and beloved by him.