David Serby's latest, which introduces his new band, the Latest Scam (the moniker's inspired by a Nick Lowe lyric), somewhat announces a new, more rocking direction for the SoCal singer/songwriter. Country and roots rock fans need not be alarmed, though, because a song like "Everybody Loves a Fool" (and others) contain plenty of hearty twang.
This slight change in musical direction may be bringing much of the special attention to this two-CD set, but Serby's detailed storytelling skills are far more attention-grabbing. Like a musical Raymond Carver, Serby gets right to the heart of the relationship problem described in "Better With My Hands." Over a tortuously slow musical bed, the man in this song is a mechanic and good with his hands whenever he's working on his vintage El Camino. These skills don't help him one iota when it comes to communicating with his ever-distancing girl, though. You end up really empathizing with this guy because there's no tool in his box to fix his relationship. "What She's Running From," about a mysterious girl that's "intoxicating and impossible thin," is another revealing character study. Her friends all know she's running from something, but nobody can quite figure out what it is.
Serby says bands like Rockpile had a big impact on the style of these songs, and you can certainly hear that band's bar band vibe running through a track like "Gospel Truth" with its rumbling electric guitar and cheeky lyrics.
Whether singing over a country or a rock beat, Serby always vocalizes with a smooth, inviting voice that makes whatever style he's inhabiting at the moment sound in character. At 20 songs long and filled with so much great storytelling, Serby's Latest Scam is the absolute opposite of a rip-off, so don't misjudge this book by its cover.