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Social Distortion

Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, Released 1/18/11

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Has there ever been a punk band as countrified as Social Distortion? Not that that’s a bad thing. Well, in general it would be, but these guys are special.

Social Distortion has always had a lot of blues and outlaw country threaded through its sound, but neither have ever been as prominent a part of the overall blend as they are on Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. Singer Mike Ness croons his way through songs like “Still Alive” and “Gimme the Sweet and “Lowdown,” while “California (Hustle and Flow)” has a more bluesy feel to it.

Ness has quite deliberately put the emphasis on his less heavy influences on this album, it seems, and the result sounds closer to classic outlaw country than to anything you’d normally expect from a band associated with punk. Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes never quite veers into twee, precious Americana territory, though — it’s too genuine and simple for that. It hits right at the point where blues, country, and classic rock ’n’ roll intersect, a little reminder of how much the latter has it’s roots in the former genres.

If you’re looking for more aggressive, hard edged punk you’re not going to like this at all, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to speculate about the meaning of life and the general fucked-up-ness of relationships over a drink or ten, this may just be the soundtrack you’re looking for.

It’s not exactly what you’d call cheerful, but it is fun, in that “hell, may as well laugh, it’s better than crying” sort of way, and it feels real and personal in that universal way that almost anyone can relate to. Loved it.