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Marcia Ball: Live! Down the Road

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Marcia Ball showcases one great slow-rolling blues here: "Louisiana 1927, Randy Newman's dust bowl tale about a historic flood, into which she wholeheartedly dives and immerses herself. In perhaps her best singing of this entire set, she recoils from its last line as if in horror from nature's awesome devastation of person and property.

But throughout the rest of this set, this composer, pianist, and singer—and current owner of the W.C. Handy Awards for Contemporary Blues Female Artist and for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year (So Many Rivers, also nominated for a Grammy Award)—throws a Crescent City party that shakes the house of rock down to its seminal roots.

Ball's party mixes and cooks up the spicy sounds of Texas and Louisiana, from Ball originals and several well-chosen covers, into potent jambalaya. In "That's Enough of That Stuff, her snapshot of the joys of a New Orleans party, in living color and illuminated by white-hot Crescent City piano, she displays a reporter's eye for nuanced detail:

We got 'Fess down on the jukebox
Fats on the radio
Got Toots on the piano in the living room
And the Nevilles singing "Iko Iko"...


Ball kicks in several other well-placed covers, with a great vocal and Pat Boyack's incendiary electric solo on Duke Robillard's "Just Kiss Me ; sharing with vocalist Angela Strehli "It Hurts to Be In Love (once a hit for Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers) across the border between New Orleans R&B and rock 'n' roll; jumpin' like Louis Jordan fronting the Chuck Berry band at Mardi Gras in "Crawfishin' ; and ending the set by shredding the bawdy blues "Let Me Play with Your Poodle, favored in previous generations by Lightnin' Hopkins, Tampa Red, and Memphis Slim.

Visit Marcia Ball on the web.


Track Listing: Big Shot; The Right Tool for the Job; Just Kiss Me; That's Enough of That Stuff; Louella; Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday; La Ti Da; It Hurts to Be in Love; Down the Road; No Ordinary Woman; Crawfishin'; Louisiana 1927; Count the Days; Let Me Play With Your Poodle.

Personnel: Marcia Ball: piano and vocals; Don Bennett: bass; Pat Boyack: guitar; Brad Andrew: tenor saxophone; Corey Keller: drums; Red Young: B-3; Angela Strehli: vocals (It Hurts to Be in Love); Mark Kazanoff: baritone saxophone; Al Gomez: trumpet.

Title: Live! Down the Road | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Alligator Records


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