MARCIA BALL

Born 20 March 1949, Orange, Texas

Marcia Ball is the bayou queen of the piano. She can raise the roof with her special brand of southern boogie and she can tear at heartstrings when she sings a ballad. She effectively uses her vocal range, which is upper-register, unlike most blues singers who have a gritty, gruffer sound. Ball, like the late Janis Joplin, is a product of the Texas triangle. She began taking piano lessons at the age of five, and continued this practice until she was 14. Her formative years were spent in Vinton, Louisiana, and while at Louisiana State University she played in a blues- rock band, Gum. She also took particular interest in the styles of Fats Domino and Professor Longhair. Moving to Austin in the early 70s, she joined the progressive country group Freda And The Firedogs, along with guitarist John X. Reed. She went solo in 1974 and had a country single released the following year. In 1978 she signed with Capitol and released her first album, "Circuit Queen." In the early eighties Ball signed with Rounder Records and remained with Rounder for almost two decades, eventually switching to the Alligator label. It is on her Rounder albums that Ball's piano style, which mixes equal parts boogie woogie with zydeco and Louisiana swamp rock, is best exemplified. They include Soulful Dress (1983), Hot Tamale Baby (1985), Gatorhythms (1989). Her solo albums mix R&B standards with original songs that combine elements of blues and country swing. She wrote the title song for Dreams Come True, a project that began in 1985 and took five years to bring to fruition with the help of producer Dr. John. Constant touring may have been a factor in the subsequent four-year hiatus before Blue House was finally issued in 1994. Let Me Play With Your Poodle (1997, perhaps her best album) included songs by Randy Newman and Tampa Red alongside Ball originals. Presumed Innocent (2001), her debut for Alligator Records, is another strong album. In 1998 she received the W.C. Handy Blues Award for Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year. Although Ball is a splendid piano player and a more than adequate vocalist, "the song writing process is the most fulfilling part of the whole deal for me," she said in a 1994 interview, "So, I always keep my ears and eyes open for things I might hear or see . . . I like my songs to go back to blues in some fashion." A consummate live performer, she plays more than 100 shows a year. She has appeared at virtually every major festival in the United States. She has also enjoyed considerable television and radio exposure, including "Austin City Limits." Along with B.B. King and Della Reese, in 1999, Ball and her band appeared in the nationally televised Public Television special "In Perfor- mance at the White House."

Official website: http://www.marciaball.com/

 
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