Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness is putting his primary band on hold for a spell while he spends the next few months on the road reviving the outlaw-country sounds of his two solo records.

Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness is putting his primary band on hold for a spell while he spends the next few months on the road reviving the outlaw-country sounds of his two solo records.

The tour began April 29 in Solana Beach, Calif., and continues through July 5 at the Hootenanny in Irvine, Calif., with a band that includes Chris Lawrence on pedal steel, Jonny Wickersham on guitar, Brent Harding on bass and Dino Guerrero on drums. Austin singer-songwriter Jesse Dayton supports from May 5-26.

"I've been working pretty hard with Social D for the last five years," Ness tells Billboard.com. "And I've done a lot of press during that time, and it seems like it came up in every interview -- 'Are you gonna do (solo shows) again?' It made me really want to."

Ness' 1998 solo debut, "Cheating at Solitaire," featured both originals and covers of tracks such as "Long Black Veil" and "Don't Think Twice (It's Alright)"; Bruce Springsteen guested on the Ness-penned "Misery Loves Company." An all-covers disc, "Under the Influences," followed in 1999.

"I think Social D brought roots music to punk, but with the solo stuff, I wanted to bring everything I learned in 25 or 30 years of being in a punk band to roots music," he says. "It's a lot harder to play a song slow and quiet than it is to play one fast; it's harder to play a song like 'Cheating at Solitaire' or 'Charmed Life' than it is 'Don't Drag Me Down' or 'Mommy's Little Monster.' It requires concentration and relaxation."

Plus, he says, it offers the chance to kick up a little dust in different -- and, it should be said, cleaner -- musical environs. "I'm trying to bring the dirt back into country, a little bit of an edge to a music that's become very homogenized," he says. "I think we could only go so far with Social D doing that. This enabled me to cross all the way over, throw in fiddles, pedal steel guitar, mandolins, saxophones. There were no limits, which was fun."

Ness said he's booked studio time in early 2009, but he's not sure if he'll use it to record another solo disc or a new set by Social Distortion, who have been working up new material. He said the band has been kicking around an all-acoustic disc as well, one that would revisit songs from Social D's catalog: "a stripped-down, kind of Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash/Johnny Thunders record, where we take old Social D songs and kinda give them a different twist."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print