|(Photo Credit: Michael Snyder)|
After rooting his three previous albums in 1960’s style honky-tonk, the current economic climate has found Serby shifting gears and exploring new musical territory in the political folk genre for Dead Man’s Poem. “I wanted to do something that was a little more serious and relevant to the things I was thinking about Serby reveals. Interestingly, he looked to the past to write about how he feels about things today. The state of the Nation had Serby thinking about this country’s obsession with money and how people are struggling nowadays.
The live debut at the Stagecoach festival (which also boasted Mel Tillis and Kris Kristofferson among the artists playing) had critics buzzing and led Robert Kinsler of The Orange County Register to claim, ..The four-man outfit was quick to impress an early-arriving crowd with a fine blend of acoustic country rooted in traditional folk, C&W and Appalachia sounds While Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times wrote “Serby and his three cohorts in his Dirt Poor Folklore group initiated the day with welcome emotional heft
The switch from musical genres makes perfect sense when you realize that Serby, like most independent artists, has a day job and that his job happens to be that of a Union Steward. As a steward he participates in Joint Labor Management Meetings, provides information and leadership at General Membership Meetings, and helps with negotiating The Collective Bargaining Agreement. “I believe unions are one of the primary reasons this country was able to build a strong middle class states Serby.
While forming the record, Serby had imagined Poor Man’s Poem as a stripped-down acoustic effort, something like a cross between Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and Dave Alvin’s Black Jack David. Although this 4th collaboration with his guitarist, and Co-Producer Ed Tree (Spencer Davis Group) expanded the arrangements, they’ve kept things straightforward. The songs are first-person narratives, which lend themselves to an emotional resonance, rather than making them historical ballads. Adds Serby, “The record filters modern day economic and social issues that I’m concerned about through a landscape populated by striking rail workers, sinking gold ships, murdering outlaws, lost and broken gold miners, and drug-addled civil war soldiers
The song “Virginia Rail” was written with the financial and emotional struggles of a friend in mind, while the title track “Poor Man’s Poem” reflects the Pullman rail strike. “Sugar Creek a song about physically and emotionally damaged Civil War soldiers, mirrors present day stories of American troops returning from the Middle East. The song, “Evil Men” was the last song written for the record and it allows the oppressed to exact revenge on those that wield the power. While the subject matter is heavy, Serby’s dulcet voice lightens the listening which led Bruce Fessier of The Desert Sun to call it, “Sweet, plaintive folkified country music
When speaking to David Ashdown (blogger/No Depression) about Poor Man’s Poem and the switch to folk music, he was asked if honky-tonk was a permanent condition. Serby responded with this, “ Honky-tonk music addresses the working man’s struggle to find, provide for, and hold onto his family and loved ones; that is the fight that inspired this Poor Man’s Poem. I haven’t been able to escape it, so, yes I do think honky-tonk is a permanent condition
To that we say, keep on fighting the good fight, David Serby, our hearts and ears are cheering you on.