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Pianist / Vocalist Marcia Ball Celebrates New CD with a Performance in Princeton, NJ

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"Take a buttery voice laid over two-fisted barrelhouse piano playing and apply it to boogie, blues, rock and soul and it's a killer combination that leaves your toes tapping."
- Associated Press

Pianist / vocalist / songwriter Marcia Ball will celebrate the release of her first-ever live CD, Live! Down the Road, with a performance in Princeton. Ball won two 2004 Blues Music Awards for “Contemporary Blues Album of the Year" for the Grammy-nominated CD, So Many Rivers, as well as the award for “Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the Year." And she recently picked up another Blues Music Award in 2005 for “Best Instrumentalist - Keyboards." Over the course of her career, Ball's infectious, intelligent and deeply emotional songs have won her a loud and loyal fan base all over the world. Concert information is as follows:

Friday, February 24th:
McCarter Theatre
91 University Place
Princeton, NJ
www.mccarter.org
8:00 p.m.
$15 - $48 (call for availability)

Also appearing with Marcia Ball will be Beausoleil.

For more than 30 years, Ball has been delivering her signature brand of Texas blues, Louisiana R&B and Gulf Coast swamp pop to audiences all over the world. She has earned a huge and intensely loyal following through critically acclaimed albums and continued non-stop touring. Live, she's simply unbeatable.

Previously, the only way for Marcia Ball's fans to hear one of her stellar live performances was to see her in person. But now that all changes, as Ball rewards her fans with her first-ever full-length live album, Live! Down the Road, a blistering set recorded at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in 2004. The CD mixes songs from throughout her career, including longtime fan favorites like “La Ti Da" and “Crawfishin'" as well as newer material like “Louella." Ball gives each song the workout of a lifetime, reinventing and reinvigorating every track with the immediacy and fire only a live show can deliver.

Born in Orange, Texas in 1949 to a family whose female members all played piano, Ball grew up in the small town of Vinton, Louisiana, right across the border from Texas. She began taking piano lessons at age five, playing old Tin Pan Alley tunes from her grandmother's collection. From her aunt, Marcia heard more modern and popular music. But it wasn't until she was 13 that Marcia discovered the blues, as she sat amazed while Irma Thomas delivered the most soulful and spirited performance the young teenager had ever seen. According to Ball, “She just blew me away; she caught me totally unaware. Once I started my own band, the first stuff I was doing was Irma's." In 1966, she attended Louisiana State University, where she played some of her very first gigs with a blues-based rock band called Gum.

In 1970 Ball set out for San Francisco. Her car broke down in Austin, Texas, and while waiting for repairs, she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. It wasn't long before Ball was performing in the city's clubs with a progressive country band called Freda and the Firedogs, while beginning to hone her songwriting skills. It was around this time that Ball delved deeply into the music of the great New Orleans piano players, especially Professor Longhair. “Once I found out about Professor Longhair," recalls Ball, “I knew I had found my direction."

When the band broke up in 1974, Ball launched her solo career, signing to Capitol Records and debuting with the country album Circuit Queen in 1978. She released six critically acclaimed albums on the Rounder label during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1990, Ball - collaborating with Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton - recorded the hugely successful Dreams Come True on the Antone's label. At the end of 1997, Marcia finished work on a similar “three divas of the blues" project for Rounder, this time in the distinguished company of Tracy Nelson and Ball's longtime inspiration, Irma Thomas. The album, Sing It!, was released in January, 1998 and was nominated for both a Grammy and a Blues Music Award as “Best Contemporary Blues Album." Ball also received the 1998 Blues Music Award for “Contemporary Female Vocalist Of The Year" and for “Best Blues Instrumentalist-Keyboards." In 1999, Marcia and her band appeared in the nationally televised Public Television special In Performance At The White House along with B.B. King and Della Reese. Her albums and performances received glowing reviews in major music publications, and Marcia was featured on leading radio and television programs, including Austin City Limits and National Public Radio's Fresh Air and Piano Jazz.

Since the release of her Alligator debut Presumed Innocent, Ball has received more popular and critical acclaim than ever before. So Many Rivers, her 2003 follow-up, continued the trend. Billboard declared, “Ball is a consummate pro - a killer pianist, a great singer and songwriter. Powerful. Righteous. So Many Rivers is the best album Ball has ever tracked."

Feature stories ran in magazines across the country, including USA Today, Keyboard, DownBeat, Billboard, US News & World Report and in newpapers from coast to coast. Ball performed on National Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion, World Cafe and Whad'Ya Know?, Public Radio International's Studio 360, the nationally syndicated Mitch Albom Show, and the PBS-televised version of Mountain Stage. Ball was featured on CNN in 2002, and in February, 2003, she joined her friends The Hackberry Ramblers on NBC television's Today Show. She was featured on the cover of The Austin Chronicle as well as Blues Revue magazine and even appeared in Piano Blues, the film directed by Clint Eastwood included in Martin Scorsese's The Blues series which aired on PBS television nationwide.

Now, with Live! Down the Road and a long list of high profile tour dates, Marcia Ball is poised for even more acclaim. Blues Revue declares, “Marcia Ball has an uncanny ability to synthesize all the sounds of the Texas-Louisiana border and deliver them with an honesty that makes it all seem natural and logical. She has this amazing power to light up a room." With Live! Down the Road, Ball's singing, songwriting and piano playing, along with her foot-stomping, road-tested band, will move souls and feet together, creating a romping, stomping roadhouse full of heartfelt passion and fervent music for anyone within earshot.

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz.
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