So-Cal rockers Social Distortion released their long-awaited album "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes" in January. For seven years the punk band's faithful had been waiting for new recordings to tap their skull-and-crossbones-painted cowboy boots to.

So-Cal rockers Social Distortion released their long-awaited album "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes" in January. For seven years the punk band's faithful had been waiting for new recordings to tap their skull-and-crossbones-painted cowboy boots to.

Patience, said guitarist Jonny Wickersham, is a long-lost industry virtue.

"The pressure's coming in after a couple of years to put an album out," Wickersham said. "The thing that's cool is that [lead singer Mike Ness] won't rush. It makes it a more truthful, real, believable record."

That idea of a "real" record has been influenced by decades in the business (the initial lineup of Social D started playing in 1978) and lifetimes as students of rock.

"When I was a kid," Wickersham said, "I remember seeing my dad listening to 'Let it Bleed' on the floor with the big '70s headphones on. I remember the album cover art. I'd pore over every note, every word and read all the 'graphs on the band. It was so mysterious and so out of reach and unattainable."

Although the rock-god "mystique is gone" in the era of one-song downloads, Wickersham is not one to romanticize.

"It's not necessarily a bad thing," he said. "Who needs all that rock star bulls---, anyway?"

On the new album, the band maintains a disaffected attitude toward popular music trends, avoiding the extremes of careless, color-outside-the-lines dissonance and overproduced sounds stinking of auto-tune.

"We're always working toward improving on what's already there," Wickersham said. "We're not trying to re-invent the band, but we want to improve."

Fans of the more rough-and-tumble Social D have lamented the buffed-up production value, but the band would have liked earlier recordings to have the sharper finish of "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes."

"Sometimes the whole thing would just tank in mastering," Wickersham said. "We really worked at making a great sounding rock and roll record we would love to hear" like that of The Rolling Stones, Mick Taylor and Elmore James.

The new album's tunes are equally diverse - from three-chord throwbacks to rebel-rousing anthems (like the first single "Machine Gun Blues"). The range attracts punkers and Petty fans alike to their live show, coming to Columbus next week.

"You can't go wrong with playing good old American rock and roll," Wickersham said of Social D's longevity. "The songs are the kind of stories that anybody can relate to and sort of remember their own experience. That's what I hear from fans more than anything else."