Jonny Two Bags 'Salvation Town' – Isotone

Jonny Wickersham is a member of the current incarnation of Social Distortion, and like founder and fellow guitarist Mike Ness, he shares a love of roots-rock music along with his punk sensibilities. Under his stage name of Jonny Two Bags, Wickersham has released this solo album which is full of captivating songwriting and thoughtful singing.

With co-producer David Kelish Wickersham has gathered a striking collection of musicians to join him on his journey to Salvation Town. Included are members of Social Distortion and luminaries such as Jackson Browne who adds harmony vocals on There You Stand Alone. Browne sideman, veteran guitarist David Lindley adds his guitar and fiddle skills to some tracks and Grez Leisz adds  steel and slide guitar. Also present is Elvis Costello’s drummer Pete Thomas with Joel Guzman who plays some atmospheric accordion, an instrument that sets the tone for a lot of the album and gives a heated border feel to songs like Clay Wheels and Avenues. Steve Berlin and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos bring their distinctive tone to the album which in many ways has its roots in the LA scene of the Eighties when bands like Los Lobos, X, The Blasters and Rank & File shared stages.

The album is not a replay of that era, but picks the spirit that saw bands absorb a lot of  influences and channel them into something new that had enormous vitality. This is what Jonny Two Bags has done here and done it in some style. His songs deal with the vernacular of relationships that can lead to being alone or just trying to find your way in the world or looking at the polar opposites that pull your life in different directions, as with album opener One Foot In The Gutter, a co-write with Pete Thomas.

There is a muscular mien to much of the music but there are moments that have a softer edge and show Wickersham’s versatility as a vocalist. Alone Tonight is one such evocative moment on what is a rewarding and rejuvenating record. Salvation Town should find favour with those who enjoyed Mike Ness’ two solo albums and who like their roots music to be played by someone who wants to deliver their best means of gaining some salvation - musically at least!