David Serby: Honkytonk and Vine

davidserby_honkytonkandvineTerrific throwback to mid-80s West Coast country

Though he grew up in Illinois with adoptive parents, Serby’s a bona fide throwback to the throwback sounds of mid-80s Los Angeles. Ironically, he was born in Los Angeles to a biological father, only recently discovered, who was also a country musician. Serby’s honky-tonk swells from the same roots as the Blasters, but with a deeper helping of the country twang and two-step rhythms Dwight Yoakam brought to the scene. Serby’s vocals favor a gentler version of the Blasters’ Phil Alvin, but he also dips into a croon, such as with the Tex-Mex “For Cryin’ Out Loud,” splitting the difference between Yoakam and Ricky Nelson. The influential echoes are a bit eerie, but the swinging and songwriting are the real deal.

The album opens with twangy electric guitar and hot fiddle licks on the car themed “Get it in Gear.” Serby chases the object of his affection with enough hot rod allusions to make Brian Wilson and Roger Christian smile. He rains tears into his beer, despairs of cheating, and chases the tail-ends of revolving relationships to emerge with a sense of redemption when the dumper finds herself the dumpee. He writes sad songs, but doesn’t sing them sad as the band mostly sticks to jaunty mid-tempos. The down-tempo numbers, including the empathic ballad “Tumble Down,” and country soul “Honky Tonk Affair” are terrific, making you wish Serby would slow down a bit more often.

Serby’s a superb craftsman, expanding clever song titles into lyrics whose rhymes flow as smoothly as conversation. He’s just as clever with his music, mixing up straight two-steps, accordion lined Tex-Mex, Bakersfield sting, and Blasters-styled blue roots-rock. His band is terrific (the rhythm section of bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Gary Ferguson is truly propulsive), as is guest steel from Rick Shea and the legendary Jay Dee Maness and fiddle from Gabe Witcher. Adding to the historic coincidence, Maness played with Serby’s birth father in decade’s past. Shaking off a career in insurance, Serby indulged unknown musical genes and crafted a career filled with the joy of making music. That joy is in every country root he intertwines here. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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