Sound Advice: Marcia Ball

Friday • Southgate House Revival

click to enlarge Marcia Ball
Marcia Ball

Boogie Woogie/Swamp Rock piano pounder Marcia Ball is the poster child for the phrase “born to the craft.” The Texas-born, Louisiana-raised Ball began piano lessons at around the same time she started school and almost immediately felt an affinity for the rolling swing of New Orleans pianists like Professor Longhair and Fats Domino. As her personal style developed, she folded in plenty of muscular Texas Blues to create her own unique and powerful hybrid.

Ball played in the Blues/Rock band Gum as a student at Louisiana State University, but after graduation she returned to Texas and founded Freda and the Firedogs, often cited as a sparkplug for the most recent Roots/Americana movement and one of Austin’s greatest bands (the group reunited at Texas’ South By Southwest conference/festival this year for two shows). Turning her back on a big label contract, Ball dissolved the Firedogs in 1974 and embarked on her now 40-year solo career.

Over the past four decades, Ball has been primarily affiliated with two of the most respected and renowned American music labels, Rounder and Alligator, and has become one of Blues/R&B/Boogie Woogie’s most celebrated and decorated artists. Releasing nearly a dozen and a half studio and live albums since the early ’70s (her latest, The Tattooed Lady & The Alligator Man, came out last year), Ball has scored four Grammy nominations and has won several Blues Music Awards. At this year’s BMA ceremony, Ball won the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Award, and the Freda and the Firedogs’ March reunion at SXSW coincided with the 25th anniversary of Ball’s induction into the Texas Music Hall of Fame.

Whether on her own or in duet with Irma Thomas, Lou Ann Barton, Delbert McClinton or any number of other Blues luminaries, Marcia Ball has perfected a piano style that is part smoldering swing, part raucous stomp and all Blues/R&B heart.

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