Wednesday, July 10, 2024

David Serby: “Low Hanging Stars” (2024) CD Review

David Serby plays an important part in the southern California music scene, even when he’s not releasing his own albums, for his influence is still felt. But now, after a decade since his last album, 2013’s David Serby And The Latest Scam, he has a new album out. Titled Low Hanging Stars, it features all original material. While David Serby And The Latest Scam had something of a pop vibe, this one finds him back in the country territory where he naturally thrives. David Serby is on acoustic guitar and vocals. Joining him on this release are Darice Bailey on keys and backing vocals, Carl Byron on keys and accordion, Ed Tree on electric guitar, Gregory Boaz on bass, and Dale Daniel on drums, with a couple of guests on the first track. Ed Tree, in addition to playing electric guitar, produced the album.

The album opens with a fun country number with a rock and roll energy titled “Fishtail Cadillac,” about a woman who takes a man’s hat and his car. And he gives chase. “She gave me one last wink/Blasting Alan Jackson/My favorite 8-track/In my fishtail Cadillac.” Yes, it’s a song that takes us back in time. It is a playful number, nothing too serious here, and it is totally enjoyable, although perhaps even more so for the woman in question, as she gets away with it. This track features some really good stuff on guitar. Taras Prodaniuk plays bass on this track, and Scott Babcock is on drums. It is followed by “Lonely Motel Days,” which has a light, kind of laid-back vibe, something akin to what you might expect from Jimmy Buffett. The vibe of the song matches the lyrics, with lines like “Since my gal told me goodbye/I’ve been downtown getting high/Hey, I’m just living lonely motel days.” As good a songwriter as David Serby is, I do have to point out the redundancy in the line “Hit the ATM machine,” which means “Hit the automatic teller machine machine.” But perhaps it works for the character of the song. This track also features some nice stuff on keys.

“Low Hanging Stars,” the album’s title track (and a title I really like) is a song about being a professional musician, or having been one, and about aging and how holding onto that sort of lifestyle can cause one’s downfall. Check out these lines: “Our names were up in neon/Hey, we lit up the sky/So bright when you saw us/You’d cover up your eyes/Now we sleep in doorways/Of cold back alley bars/But higher than ever/We’re low hanging stars.” What’s interesting is that the music of this song has a great energy, and it is that energy, that music, that will continue even after the characters of this song are gone. The music lives on, yet there is something really sad at the end of this song because it returns to its first line, when these characters were children and their lives were ahead of them. This is one of my favorite tracks. Then “Another Chance To Dream” has a sweeter vibe, with a pretty sound from its start, as the day starts with the dream that he is still with the person he loved. And from his tone, it almost seems that the dream is enough, at least for as long as he can hold onto it. But once it goes, he slips into the nightmare of waking life, and so looks forward to nighttime when he will “have another chance to dream.” It’s a sad state to be in, but it’s not a depressing song. His delivery is not one full of despair, but rather there is something hopeful, as he looks forward to his dreams even if he realizes that he should try to move on. And the track features some pretty work on accordion.

There is a delightful energy to “She Ain’t Changed At All,” and perhaps it’s because in this song the woman has returned to his life after seven years. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “And then she looked at me/Just like she never left/With a smile that made me fall/And when she said my name/It took away my breath/I got to say she ain’t changed at all.” The rhythm gives us the feeling that they’re going to keep moving. The question is whether it will be together or not. But the answer lies within the song’s title, for as he says, “She ain’t changed at all.” That’s followed by “The Jukebox Is Broken.” This is a fun number, one to get you on the dance floor, even as he tells us “The jukebox is broken/And there ain’t no music here.” Are there sadder lines than those? Those lines are particularly sad for the folks who inhabit this particular bar, wishing there was music that would help them meet that special someone, help them connect to those around them. It’s so easier with music, isn’t it? This track also features some wonderful stuff on accordion, and I love the guitar work here.

If you live in Los Angeles, you’ve likely considered leaving at some point or other. Especially now, when the rents are getting ridiculous. But, hell, where would we go? What place is better? Check out the song’s chorus: “But they got trouble in Houston, too/Nashville will beat you black and blue/They ain’t built a town/Can’t drag you to your knees/Sure, we’re all broke and the gigs don’t pay/But that ain’t driving me away/Because those other towns don’t come with guarantees/So why leave Los Angeles?” And this song rocks, just like the many rooms in this great city, even if they’re only half-filled. Every city has good music, sure, but Los Angeles seems to have more than most places, and that’s enough to keep here, even as I struggle to pay the rent on my tiny apartment. “Why Leave Los Angeles” is followed by “I Bought The Ring.” This one has a cheerful vibe, though the lyrics mention trouble: “I was warned, but boy was I naïve/You said you’d changed, made me believe/Stood before the judge and said I do/Now here I lie black and blue.” Yes, it’s the sort of dance these two are engaged in, and the backing vocals on the chorus really help illustrate that.

There is something timeless about “Trying To Get To Encinitas,” about trying to get somewhere to see someone, and the struggle to get there. “I made it down to San Clemente/I found a quarter on the street/But they tore out all the pay phones/I guess that’s what they think of folks like me.” Yes, the world has no patience or compassion for anyone who doesn’t own a cell phone. Where have all the payphones gone? This track features some wonderful work on accordion, which helps us believe that he’ll make it where he’s going. The album then concludes with “Is It Lonely In Here.” Being lonely when you’re alone is one thing, but it’s so much worse to feel alone when you’re at a bar, and that’s what this song is about. “Is it me/Or is it lonely in here/‘Cause I see the dancers/But I can’t comprehend/If I can’t have her/I swear their love must all just be pretend.” It makes no sense when the outside world doesn’t match what’s going on inside of us. This track features a particularly good vocal performance, as well as an excellent rhythm. It’s so good to have David Serby releasing new music again, and I hope we won’t have long to wait before his next release.

CD Track List

  1. Fishtail Cadillac
  2. Lonely Motel Days
  3. Low Hanging Stars
  4. Another Chance To Dream
  5. She Ain’t Changed At All
  6. The Jukebox Is Broken
  7. Why Leave Los Angeles
  8. I Bought The Ring
  9. Trying To Get To Encinitas
  10. Is It Lonely In Here

Low Hanging Stars was released on June 14, 2024 on Blackbird Record Label.

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