I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard Social D fan but I have followed their career from a distance, enjoying quite a few of their classic songs (Bad Luck, 99 To Life, Down On The World Again). After checking out THIS early nominee for Best Album of 2011, I might need to pay closer attention. I realize it’s only January, but I HAVE to imagine this one is gonna be burning up my CD player (yeah…I STILL have one in my car) for quite a while and I hope it gets some respect next year at the Grammys!
If you’ve never heard the bluesy rock of Social D, it’s what you’d expect from a band with the name “Social Distortion.” Hard rockin’, hard rollin’, blues rock from…California? Yep…and it’s damn good blues rock too. Lead singer Mike Ness’ gravelly vocals and heavy guitars have been the sound of this band since 1978, and they haven’t changed much. The one thing that has changed is the insightful lyrics that have infiltrated this album. Living the rock n roll lifestyle is never easy (or so they say), and Ness and the boys aren’t necessarily living the dream. But what they ARE doing is making some great old fashioned rock that has always been straight from the hip, and this album is no different.
They lead off with the album with an instrumental track, “Road Zombie”, that rocks with a driving beat and a guitar frenzy and from there the album never really lets up. You have instant anthems “Machine Gun Blues”, “Far Side Of Nowhere” and “Still Alive.” And you have rockers like “Gimme The Sweet Lowdown” & the Hank Williams cover of “Alone & Foresaken.”
For me though, the real treat of “Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes” are the rock ballads that speck the album. You can feel Ness’ pain when he sings about the end of a relationship in “Writing On The Wall” and the beautiful “Bakersfield” is the highlight of the album, with it’s slow jam, smoky bar feel. And when Ness sings to his girl (he’s stranded in Vegas and she’s millions of miles away), you feel for him. And I can understand that feeling…which might be why I love this song so much.
The only track that doesn’t really stand out for me is “Can’t Take It With You,” which is a little repetitive in the chorus and grows old after a while. But even that isn’t a detriment in what is a stellar return from a band that has paid its dues. 7 years has been WAY too long to wait for this new edition to their collection but trust me when I tell you…it fits right in perfectly and might very well be the classic album that we’ve always known they had in ’em.