Personnel: Mike Ness (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars); Bruce Springsteen (vocals, guitar); James Saez (acoustic, electric & slide guitars, keyboards, percussion); Chris Lawrence (guitar, pedal steel guitar); Brian Setzer, Billy Zoom (guitar); Tom Corbett (mandolin); Mando Dorame (tenor saxophone); Jamie Muhoberac (Hammond B-3 organ, keyboards); Veikko Lepisto (acoustic & electric basses); Josh Freese, Daniel Glass (drums).
One of the things that always set Social Distortion apart from the rest of the '80s California punks was their incorporation of twangy country/rockabilly into their driving sound. They wound up covering everything from "Ring of Fire" to Jimmy Work's "Making Believe" without sacrificing a bit of sonic fury. With Social D. frontman Mike Ness' solo debut, it becomes apparent that most of those country leanings came from him.
On CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE, Ness is freed to further explore his rootsy Americana influences, from straight country and bluegrass treatments of original tunes to covers of "Long Black Veil," Hank Williams's "You Win Again" and Dylan's "Don't Think Twice." Naturally, Ness attacks much of this material with the same punk-inspired brute force and unflinching lyrical realism that made Social Distortion a success, and it makes CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE an intriguing chapter in Ness' continually unfolding musical story.
Entertainment Weekly (4/23/99, p.62) - "...Ness--freed from his powerchording Social Distortion--gleefully chomps at country...rockabilly...even thoughtful folk....it's American rock at its most rabid." - Rating: B+
Alternative Press (6/99, p.106) - 4 (out of 5) - "...the songs on CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE can be divided into two equally impressive categories: gritty, shit-kicking country and atmospheric hardcore blues..."
CMJ (4/26/99, p.28) - "...Ness' distinct growl and his gritty personality, both of which illuminate his stories in a way that should attract both ex-punk rockers and new traditionalists."
Mojo (Publisher) (12/02, p.132) - "...The album is rock'n'roll of an American vintage, all open roads and ruined lives....His honesty and gravity is never in question..."