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David Serby | Honkytonk and Vine

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Honkytonk and Vine

by David Serby

A natural born honky tonker, the Southern California-based David Serby establishes himself on his second album as a worthy heir to Dwight Yoakam's West Coast country crown
Genre: Country: Americana
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Get It in Gear
2:58 $0.99
2. If You're Serious
3:09 $0.99
3. Chasin' You
3:08 $0.99
4. Tumble Down
4:43 $0.99
5. Honky Tonk Affair
3:48 $0.99
6. For Cryin' Out Loud
3:03 $0.99
7. I Only Smoke When I'm Drinkin'
3:33 $0.99
8. Don't Even Try
2:57 $0.99
9. Country Club Couples
2:14 $0.99
10. Permanent Position
3:23 $0.99
11. The Grass Is Always Bluer
2:56 $0.99
12. The Heartache's On the Other Sleeve
2:38 $0.99
13. Go On and Cry
4:07 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
It has been a big couple of years for David Serby, both professionally and personally. The hard-working Southern California country artist opened the hugely popular Stagecoach Music Festival, received a front page profile in the Los Angeles Times, shared stages with Nashville stars like Tracy Lawrence and Americana heroes like Jim Lauderdale, and met his biological father for the first time

Now Serby is poised for even bigger things with the release of his third CD, Honky Tonk and Vine. The disc has already attracted pre-release acclaim with Americana music maven Chris Morris extolling it in LA CityBeat as one of best albums of ’09 and calling Serby “a formidable tunesmith who knows the honky-tonk template by heart.”

Serby’s new record retains all of the classic country stylings that he cultivated so successfully on his first two discs, I Just Don’t Go Home (2006) and Another Sleepless Night (2007). Honky Tonk and Vine comes well-stocked with tears-in-my-beer weepers like “I Only Smoke When I’m Drinkin’” as well as roadhouse rave-ups like “Don’t Even Try.” The record races off to a hot start with “Get It in Gear,” about a girl who asked Serby to retrieve naked photos of her from a drug dealer. Another true life-inspired tune, “The Heartache’s on the Other Sleeve,” finds a man enjoying the discovery that his ex-wife, who cheated on him, is being cheated on too.

While exploring the vagaries of the heart, Serby steps outside the traditional honky-tonk sounds throughout this effort. “For Cryin’ Out Loud” sports a lively Tex-Mex feel, while “Honky Tonk Affair” cruises on a Southern soul vibe. He draws inspiration to explore new musical territory from his talented band, the Sidewinders, who he feels blessed to play with. The rhythm section, bassist Taras Prodaniuk (Dwight Yoakam) and drummer Gary Ferguson (John Hiatt), are in-demand L.A. players as are many of the disc’s guest sidemen — Skip Edwards, Jay Dee Maness, Rick Shea and Gabe Witcher.

Serby calls longtime guitarist/producer Ed Tree (Spencer Davis Group) his Don Rich and Pete Anderson. “I feel so lucky to hook up with him,” Serby states. “Without me saying anything, Ed will massage the track to exactly what I want it to be. I’m really on the same page with him musically. He’s a great collaborator in that respect.” A comment from Tree, for example, spurred Serby to re-work “The Grass Is Always Bluer” from a Wynn Stewart-type tune into a more bluegrass-flavored number.

The disc also bears the influence, somewhat indirectly, of his biological father. Serby, who had long known that he was adopted, was able to track down his biological parents a couple years ago. It turns out that his birth father, Pete Canton, is a country music bassist who was part in the L.A. scene during the ‘60s and ‘70s. In an unusual coincidence, Canton played with pedal steel wiz Jay Dee Maness, who also appears on Honky Tonk. Discovering this biological music connection helped to explain a lot to Serby. Throughout his life in Southern California and Illinois, he was enamored with music (playing violin in elementary school, singing in a high school punk band and teaching himself guitar in college), although his adoptive parents were not. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Serby put down the guitar for most of his 20s and worked as a Hollywood script reader and an insurance claims adjuster. He picked it up again when he turned 30 after his first marriage broke up and his adoptive father died. Playing backyard parties, open mike night and clubs, Serby worked his way up the musical food chain and got an invaluable education. “Most of the heavy lifting when you start out in music is done in your 20s,” he shares. “I was doing heavy lifting when I was really too old to do heavy lifting. But I keep doing it because I love it so much. I feel lucky to have gotten the opportunity to do music.”

Learning about his birth father’s music career got Serby thinking about ‘60s and ‘70s country music. He penned “Country Club Couples” as a way to visit the raucous old days of country music bars. Serby also started writing in a much leaner style. “I have been focusing more on writers like Willie Nelson and Harlan Howard, who are able to say so much with so little.” He says that his goal with this new set of songs was “stripping away as many of the words as I could and saying as much as I could with as little as I needed to.”

A real student of country music, Serby proudly carries on the California country tradition that traces back to the singing cowboys Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers, through Spade Cooley and Hank Penny, then Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and more recently Dave Alvin and Dwight Yoakam. “If I could make a bunch of records and swing back and forth between Alvin and Yoakam that would be perfect,” Serby proclaims. Although with the triumphant Honky Tonk and Vine, he stands to make a name for himself across the Americana world.



to write a review

Dan MacIntosh

Roughstock CD Review: Honkytonk and Vine
David Serby’s mug, pictured on the back of his new Honkytonk and Vine CD, is the perfect image of modern day honky tonk man. He has the hat, the beard, and the jean jacket. Heck he’s not too far off from looking like a young Merle Haggard! Vocally, however, he’s miles away from The Hag’s rough ‘n tumble vocal tone. Instead, Serby has a smooth, suave singing instrument, which he uses to subtly get his points across. And while the CD cover features a close up of his boots touching down on a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, this man has by no means come any where close to going Hollywood yet. Those boots are just too tall and thick to let Hollywood’s corrupting influence in.

Like all the best country performers, Serby often sounds like a soul singer with twang. Take, “Honky Tonk Affair”, for example. Skip Edwards adds Hammond B3, like it’s an Al Green ‘70s soul ballad, while the lead guitar part brings bluesman Robert Cray’s stinging lead lines to mind. But with “I Only Smoke When I’m Drinkin’”, Serby is beautifully politically incorrect. He engages in both of these vices (smoking and drinking, that is) quite a bit because he only drinks to forget, and he has a load on his mind that can only be drowned away. Instrumentally, the wonderful Jay Dee Maness lays on the pedal steel thick and pure, just like an unfiltered cigarette in a club without ventilation. With “The Grass is Always Bluer”, Serby trades his amplified bar music for Kentucky hills acoustic sounds, which provide a strikingly pleasing contrast.

“Country Club Couples” is another song that could only come out the mouth of a country singer. Its lyric talks of how honky tonks are often magnetic dens of temptation, where inebriated couples fool around and also fool themselves into believing they’re not cheating.

Serby, who wrote all these songs, also has a witty way with words. After detailing many past jobs he’s hated during the verses to “Permanent Position“, he finally finds a position he can live with, which is “leaning on one elbow with a beer glass in my hand.” Elsewhere, on “Chasin' You”, he spells out the vanity in chasing after one particular romantic prey by singing, “What are you good for beneath all that pretty hair/ ‘Cept making me feel like a jerk.” Lastly, the title alone to “The Heartache’s On the Other Sleeve” is a winner all by itself.

Much of Serby’s music is sad, in a funny sort of way, and hardly dance floor ready. But the opener, “Get It in Gear” revs things up a bit, and “Go On and Cry”, with its upfront electric guitar, closes the disc on a high powered sonic note.

Honkytonk and Vine will not hit you over the head with a broken beer bottle. This isn’t hell raising music to rival, say, Kid Rock or Eric Church. Serby, instead, hypnotizes you with that silky voice of his to quietly get under your skin. With that said, country radio isn’t all that good about making room for independent artists like Serby. But Serby has the looks of a heartthrob, the voice of a seducer, and the talent to please those looking deeper than the superficial, so let’s cross our fingers he finds a soft place to land on the charts.

The 9513

Album Review: David Serby - Honkytonk and Vine
It’s been a couple of years since David Serby’s last album, Another Sleepless Night, saw the light of day and during that time he’s continued honing his craft to perfection and even met his biological father for the first time. All this occurring on the backside of 30 is a little unconventional to be sure, but never mind that–his latest has him poised to break out of the local L.A. country scene and into discussion alongside the truly great country albums of the year.

Honkytonk and Vine is Serby’s third release to date and continues to build on his previous efforts, culminating in one exceedingly pleasing listen. The album’s musical influences run the gamut from honky-tonk (of course) to Tex-Mex, rockabilly, pop, soul, and even a bluegrass flavored tune with a melody that sounds suited for Western swing.

For something so stylistically diverse, Honkytonk and Vine is remarkably cohesive and pleasing rather than exhausting and confusing, and is anchored together by a voice which, although it cannot be called pristine, is much like Ralph Stanley II’s voice on his 2008 release This One is Two; Serby’s emotive ability is first-rate and his vocal phrasing is delightful.

Serby’s lyrics are simple, but evocative and freshly worded. Take, for instance, these lines from “Get It In Gear,” a song about a girl who keeps the narrator on his toes: “She burns through gin like motor fuel/I’m a cross-eyed cowboy falling off my stool“–humorous, expressive, and revealing. Despite their simplicity, Serby’s songs are capable of being pondered to reveal deeper truths without falling apart under scrutiny, and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Quite the accomplishment, and especially so considering he penned each of the 13 songs himself.

Serby doesn’t attempt to push any boundaries in an indulgent attempt to be original, but nonetheless sounds creative while working within a particular framework, drawing from a number of influences and leaning on tradition without using it as a crutch.

However, Honkytonk and Vine still manages to be a musically stunning piece of work that breathes life and soul into a genre that’s been overrun with calculated guitar solos and melodic sound-alikes that deviate little from formulated templates. It’s music that demands to be noticed alongside the lyrics and is interesting where mainstream releases have recently failed–it’s not a thickly layered wall of Shinola, but rather–as Serby describes a character in “Chasin’ You”–it is “style beyond compare.”

This is an album that hasn’t been overly filtered and manages to make fewer missteps than ones that pass by infinitely more eyes and hands. So, while it seemingly takes more risks, the reward is far greater.

In short, with Honkytonk and Vine you can have your cake and eat it, too; style and substance. Imagine that.

Recommended: “Tumble Down,” “I Only Smoke When I’m Drinkin’,” “The Heartache’s On the Other Sleeve,” “Country Club Couples”