Album review: David Serby’s ‘Poor Man’s Poem’


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The gentle folk setting of the tales L.A. singer-songwriter David Serby has set in the not-so-distant past of the American frontier can be misleading. His acoustic songs are rife with the struggle of working folk, the toll that greed and violence wreak, the desperation that economic injustice exacts upon those on the lower rungs of society.

“I Just Stole Back What Was Mine” is a great example of looking to history and finding contemporary relevance: “I never took no poor man’s purse/Nor robbed the mail line/Wells Fargo stole my gold from me/I just stole back what was mine,” he sings, giving voice to an impulse that’s been prevalent throughout the home mortgage meltdown.


In “A Love Song From Miguel,” a lone sheepherder comes to a tragic, if not terribly surprising, demise at the hands of hired guns working for ranchers more interested in grabbing land than equal opportunity. Serby’s Everyman voice gives his skillfully written slices of life an exceptionally sympathetic tone, and he gets tasteful support from Southland roots-music aces including Carl Byron, Edward Tree and Rick Shea.

The effect is that life’s inequities have always been with us, and likely always will be — yet that knowledge doesn’t result in any sense of defeatism. After two previous albums rooted in the golden age of honky-tonk music, Serby shows himself equally adept with the social-protest facet of folk music.
David Serby
“Poor Man’s Poem”
Three stars (Out of four)


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-- Randy Lewis