ALL NESSED UP: Social Distortion, the band that literally put Orange County on the punk rock map back in 1979, has always done things its own way. Not unlike X, Social D. combined punk rock energy with a rootsier-than-most sensibility, notably including homegrown pop-punk melodies and razor-edged guitar solos in the mix, a somewhat risky endeavor by punk's purist standards at the time.
A couple of years ago, singer/songwriter/lead guitarist/vocalist/bandleader Mike Ness placed Social D. on temporary hiatus to pursue an even-rootsier solo career, which yielded a fine pair of albums, Cheating at Solitaire (featuring guest appearances from Bruce Springsteen, Brian Setzer, and X's Billy Zoom, among others) and the covers collection Under the Influences, which includes Ness' interpretations of tunes by such greats as Hank Williams, Marty Robbins and Carl Perkins; both were released on Time Bomb in 1999. ("With Social Distortion I brought American roots music to punk," Ness explained when I interviewed him two years ago. "With [the solo project] I tried to bring elements of punk to roots to make it real again. The main focus was to be rootsy without being retro.")
But then a not-so-funny thing happened during the SD hiatus. On February 29 of last year, Ness' high school buddy Dennis Danell, who also happened to be a founding member of Social Distortion, in the role of rhythm guitarist for two decades, unexpectedly passed away at age 38 of natural causes.
Lesser souls might have packed it in, taken the sudden loss as an omen of sorts that, perhaps, Social Distortion had finally run its course. But Ness, who spent his youth in and out of jail, fighting his demons and addictions, is nothing if not a survivor. From the same interview: "There were thousands of bands that started when I did, and I don't know why only a handful remain. -- But I do know that there's a difference between talent and passion, and that's why I've been able to do this for 20 years. I have a passion for it. It's a way of life for me."
Having perhaps realized from the solo outings that you can take the kid out of punk rock (for a spell, anyway), but you can't take the punk rock out of the kid, Ness has regrouped Social D. with new guitarist Johnny Wickersham (ex-Cadillac Tramps) to trot out the old tunes and road-test new ones for possible inclusion on the next Social Distortion album (which is due out later this year and will be dedicated to the memory of Danell) for a brief tour of the West coast. Luckily, Tucson is on the itinerary.
Social Distortion performs with opener Death at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $25 at all Ticketmaster locations. For further details call 798-3333.
MAPLE LEAF RAG: Don't hold the fact that The Sadies are Canadian against them. Though they call Toronto home, the band has managed to out-authenticate the majority of bands scrambling for credibility in the Americana bins these days.
Too often, rock bands will add a fiddle or pedal steel player in an effort to jump the now-seemingly hip alt-country train. The Sadies--who have provided backing for Jad Fair, the Pernice Brothers, the Mekons' Sally Timms, Neko Case and R&B outlaw Andre Williams, among others--stand apart because they know that the only rule for making music good is making good music.
Whether it's the nifty little instrumental surf ditty "Pass the Chutney," which opens Tremendous Efforts, the band's 2001 contribution to the beyond-impressive Bloodshot Records discography (recorded with Steve Albini), the sheer raw power of the what-if-The Band-were-The Garage Band "FLASH," "One Million Songs," which sounds like the Dream Syndicate altering its sound in order to tour honky-tonks (and begs inclusion on your next road trip mix tape), or the plodding, heart-wrenching duet between one of the Good brothers (I can't be sure if it's Dallas or Travis--both sing and play guitar) and their mother, Margaret, on album-closer "Before I Wake," it all sounds astoundingly authentic, no hey-we're-city-boys-playing-country-music wink and nod.
Three of Efforts' 13 efforts are cover songs--the Elvis-identified "Wearin' That Loved on Look," the Gun Club's "Mother of Earth" and the Goffin/King gem "I Wasn't Born to Follow," made famous by the Byrds on the Easy Rider soundtrack--and their disparity of style alone should clue you into the fact that these guys know no bounds in mining territory for material. Canadian though they may be, the Sadies are plugged into the dusty-corner sound of America like few like-minded practitioners today. Plus they wear really cool suits.
The Sadies perform along with Tucson's Creosote at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 8 at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. All ages are welcome and admission is $5 at the door. For more information call 884-0874.
PUDDINHEADS: According to its press clippings, Mad Pudding is a far better band than its lame moniker would have you believe. Hailing from Vancouver, B.C. (that's in Canada, for the geographically challenged), the Puddin' begins with a base of traditional Celtic music, then douses it with an infusion of world beat funk and elements of everything from classical music to jazz. To wit: It holds the distinction of being the only band I've ever heard of that covers songs by both Leonard Cohen and Sly and the Family Stone.
Mad Pudding performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 7 at Plaza Palomino, at Fort Lowell and Swan roads, as part of the ongoing Courtyard Concert Series. Advance tickets are available for $12 at Antigone Books, Brew & Vine, City Grill, Hear's Music and Enchanted Earthworks, online at www.dotucson.com, or by phone at 297-9133. They'll be $15 at the door. Call the aforementioned number for more info.
CLICK YOUR HEELS: On his brand-spankin' new release Little Wing (Epic), nouveau flamenco pioneer Ottmar Liebert takes a look back at everything that's inspired him in his 13-album career span. While the disc includes a healthy dose of Liebert originals, perhaps more telling is the inclusion of his reinterpretations of pop and rock classics (including Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and the Getz/Gilberto bossa nova chestnut "The Girl From Ipanema"). As Liebert explains, "This new album is a stopping point to look back before I move on." If revisionist flamenco is your thing, you can't do much better than this guy.
Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra, along with XL2, perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 6 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets for reserved seats are available for $29.50 plus service charges at all Ticketmaster outlets or by phone at 327-1000. For further details call 798-3333.
CALLING ALL LOCAL BANDS: The Tucson Weekly is currently undergoing a redesign of its Web site, and as part of the upgrade, we're partnering with Cornerband.com to start up an all-encompassing new registry of local bands. Here's where you come in: It's up to each individual band or performer to supply us with information. In other words, you have complete control over the content of your entry (except that we'll edit your spelling, punctuation and grammar to conform to our high standards), and the registry allows you to upload not only text about your band, but song and video clips as well. As if that weren't enough, the whole shebang is free.
To register your band, go to our home page at www.TucsonWeekly.com and click on the appropriate icon. You'll be taken to a series of pages asking for lots (and I mean lots) of information about your band and directing you how to upload your clips. With your help, the new registry should be up and running in just a few weeks. Hopefully this will make amends for last year's Tucson Musicians Register fiasco (did I mention it's completely free?). We urge all local musicians to take advantage of it.