Most people who know Jonny Wickersham, better known as Jonny Two Bags, know him as a member of Social Distortion. Now Jonny Two Bags has his own solo recording and no, it does not sound like Social D. The sound is much more country-rock and Americana and there is much less anger. Two Bags proves to have some very interesting things to say in these original songs. He provides a very worthwhile listening experience on his own, with some help from some very skilled friends.
The first song, “One Foot in the Gutter,” establishes the upbeat sound and the personal nature of the songwriting, while gaining attitude from the presence of Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello’s band. “Then You Stand Alone” has Two Bags duetting with Jackson Browne. It definitely has a ’70s California vibe. “Avenues” has a Tom Petty feel to it and great accordion by Joel Guzman, who also enhances the haunting “Clay Wheels.” “Wayward Cain” has a contemporary country sound and gets an assist from guest David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.
Other guests on the album include fellow Social Distortion band mates David Hidalgo Jr.(son of the Hidalgo above), Brent Harding, and Danny McGough, as well as Zander Schloss of the Circle Jerks.
All of these guest stars add to the musical excellence of the album, but they never outshine the power of Two Bags’ vocals and the surprising excellence of his songwriting.
“Forlorn Walls” calls to mind the sound of the great Gram Parsons, while “Hope Dies Hard” has that wall of guitar sound and yearning quality of so much of the best Americana music. “Ghosts” is possibly the best storytelling song on the album and my favorite personal favorite cut. “Alone Tonight” would be right at home on today’s country radio and “That’s Just the Way It Goes” brings us right back around to ’70s California again.
Two Bags has a clear and evocative voice. He is definitely strong enough to have his own solo career as well as his career with Social Distortion. This CD should please country fans as well as fans of singer-songwriters and Social Distortion fans will enjoy it as well as long as they don’t expect to hear all of the usual angst.