If the slick, soulless twaddle that passes for contemporary country music is enough to make you puke, despair not. David Serby has arrived. In the mold of Harlan Howard, Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam, this appealing singer/songwriter/guitarist plays some classic Bakersfield-style honky-tonk with a welcome bit of Texas-style folk-blues thrown in. We're talkin' real songs of dirt and dust, of love, lust and heartbreak, where dreams and regret often collide without warning. You don't just hear these story songs, you feel them.
Serby—Illinois-born but now living in nearby South Pasadena—has an eye for vivid detail and complex characters. He writes, sings and plays acoustic guitar on most of his songs, rendering last year's I Just Don't Go Home a focused, memorable debut. Brand-new release Another Sleepless Night is more up tempo, with a fuller, varied group sound. His versatile who's-who band, the Sidewinders, features guitarist Ed Tree (Spencer Davis Group), bassist Taras Prodaniuk (Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam), and drummer Gary Ferguson (John Hiatt.) Among its best tracks is "It Ain't A Party," a true-to-life ballad that turns a simple phrase into a full-blown short story in less than four minutes.
"It's not easy, but that's what I strive for as a songwriter," says Selby, who will perform in May at Coachella's Stagecoach Fest, the rock franchise's 50-act country/bluegrass offshoot. "A point of view, an economy of words, and catchy melody . . . that's what makes some of my heroes . . . like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dave Alvin . . . so special to me."
No doubt about it, country music needs David Serby.
David Serby & the Sidewinders with West of Texas and Road Kill Kings at the Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams Ave., Anaheim, (714) 533-1286; www.thedollhut.com. Fri., 9 p.m. Free. 21+.