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Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness's second solo record, released in 1999.
Under the Influences is comprised almost entirely of old country and western covers, with a "honky tonk" version of Ness's Social D hit Ball and Chain being the only original.
This record followed Cheating at Solitaire by less than a year, and at first seemed like a disappointment, especially because of the lack of new original material.
Nevertheless, it has its charms. The opening five-song sequence doesn't hit a wrong note. It opens with a hard-driving cover of Wayne Walker's All I Can Do Is Cry that could have been a hit (perhaps it was in Japan). Then Marvin Rainwater's Gamblin' Man, an amusing tale of a gambler who loses everything to a red-headed woman in a card game, and when he can't pay up, has to marry her instead. Then an early, obscure Carl Perkins tune, a real weeper, Let the Jukebox Keep on Playin'.
The fourth song is a cover of Bobby Fuller's I Fought the Law. This was released as a single and went absolutely nowhere, through no fault of Mike Ness's. If there's anything wrong with it, it's that Ness sticks too close to the original. But these guys (the touring band for Cheating at Solitaire) can really rock, and it's high on energy and musicianship, if a little low on originality. Then comes the centerpiece of the record, an explosive take on Marty Robbins' 1959 gunfight ballad Big Iron. There's some truly tasty lead guitar that lands in a gray area between punk and mariachi. And this is another song made for the throaty growl of Mike Ness, who relates the story of Texas Red and the lawman who shot him down with a bloodthirsty glee.
The record levels off after this, with a weird cover of Billy Riley's One More Time laden with horns and faux-Buddy Holly vocals, but recovers for decent rips through George Jones's One More Time, Hank Williams' Six More Miles, and Wanda Jackson's Funnel of Love.
The two closers are The Carter Family's Wildwood Flower and the aforementioned Ball and Chain, which are pleasant enough with a slight sense of Ness biting off more than he can chew-- Wildwood Flower requires more subtlety than Ness can deliver, and Ball and Chain sounds wonderful if you don't remember the original. Here it's a little too long and too slow.
This is a worthwhile record for Social Distortion completists and anyone who likes old outlaw country. Also, it's the last thing Mike Ness has recorded to this date.