Over the last several years, David Serby has been carving a niche out for himself in the Southern California country music scene with two terrific albums (I Just Don't Go Home and Another Sleepless Night) and steady gigging. His third full-length finds him continuing to make fine tradition-honoring honky tonk music while also drawing in other rootsy sounds. The disc gets off to a rip-roaring start with "Get It in Gear." This twangabilly tune also serves as a wonderful showcase for Serby's colorful songwriter skills as it describes a "dirt track doll" who is "dancing like a tilt-a-world" and making Serby "a cross-eyed cowboy falling off my stool." Throughout the disc, he explores the ins and outs of love from a number of interesting angles. The roadhouse rave-up "If You're Serious" concerns a bar Romeo who's offering to stop his wild ways if his girl is willing to also. The more sedate, thoroughly heartfelt "Tumble Down" is about two lost souls possibly finding solace together. "Don't Even Try" essays a tempestuous relationship played out in a bar, while "Chasin' You" deals with a man ready to quit chasing an elusive object of his affection. Serby seems able to create these timeless-sounding honky tonk gems as if it's in his blood, and, to an extent, it is. Serby's biological father was a longtime country music bassist, and the humorous "Country Club Couples" serves as Serby's salute to his father's music career in the '60s and '70s. It's also heartening to see Serby branching out more here. "Honky Tonk Affair," despite its title, is a soulful number fueled by ace L.A. session man Skip Edwards' keyboard playing. Edwards' accordion work also gives a distinctive Tex-Mex flavor to "For Crying Out Loud." Meanwhile, fiddler Gabe Witcher, another top L.A. country picker, imbues "The Grass Is Always Bluer" with a lively bluegrass spirit. Serby continues his productive partnership with his longtime producer/guitarist Edward Tree as well as utilizing a wealth of talented Southern California sidemen (like pedal steel whiz Jay Dee Maness, bassist Taras Prodaniuk, and drummer Gary Ferguson). However, it is lean, laconic Serby who firmly stands front and center. Tunes like the jukebox gem "The Heartache's on the Other Sleeve" expertly blend humor with heartbreak in a classic country style. Serby may be Southern California's best-kept country music secret, but if he keeps turning out masterful albums like Honkytonk and Vine, he shouldn't remain a secret for very much longer.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Berick