‘A major deity in a minor key’
Face it, you hate boy bands – as you should. You are secretly happy they finally hit puberty and faded into obscurity. Britney Spears and Mariah Carey can’t sing or dance, and there’s a limit to what Lycra can do to make you ignore a complete absence of musical talent.You want to hear real music, played by real musicians.Help is on the way.Southern boogie/blues piano queen Marcia Ball and her band are gonna rock your world.Because Ball’s music doesn’t pander to those who can only be described as refugees from a Mountain Dew commercial, you might not have heard her on bubble-headed pop radio. Touring is her stock in trade, and her high-energy live shows are enough to make King Tut stomp his feet.Princess of the piano bluesThese days, writers are using words like “venerable” to describe Ball. They’d be more accurate to call her “A Major Deity in a Minor Key.”
She’s back in the U.S. after two weeks in Italy, Spain and Great Britain promoting a new live album, “Live! Down the Road.”The package captures Ball’s high energy live shows. They nailed the whole thing in just a couple hours – one night, one set, one audience and one great band.”We got everything we hoped to record in the first set,” Ball said with a nod to her band and the audience.She has 10 records on her own and plays about 125 gigs a year. All audiences, she said, are good. “Everywhere is good, all audiences are good,” Ball said. “There are still a lot of places I haven’t been yet.”Ball moved to Austin in the late 1970s, from her native Vinton, LA., on the Texas/Louisiana state line. Louisiana’s approach to life is much more wide open than their Texas neighbors, so when someone from the Lone Star State said they were headed to Louisiana looking for fun, they were said to be going “down the road,” hence the name of her new release.Her first record in 1978 was in the progressive country vein. Her sound shifted to Gulf Coast rhythm and blues in the early ’80s and she never looked back.
Lady rocks the bluesBall can flat play the piano – her long, crossed leg is swinging against the piano keeping time as she belts out everything from Texas roadhouse rock and blues to New Orleans rhythms and Mardi Gras favorites.Ball began taking piano lessons at age five, plinking old Tin Pan Alley tunes from her grandmother’s collection. From her aunt, Ball heard more modern and popular music. But it wasn’t until she was 13 that Marcia Ball discovered the blues, as she sat amazed as Irma Thomas delivered the most soulful and spirited performance the young teenager had ever seen.”She just blew me away, she caught me totally unaware,” said Ball. “Once I started my own band, the first stuff I was doing was Irma’s.”Ball headed for San Francisco, but her car broke down in Austin, Texas. While waiting for repairs, she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. It wasn’t long before she was performing in the city’s clubs with a blues-influenced progressive country band called Freda and the Firedogs. It was around this time that Ball delved deeply into the music of the great New Orleans piano players, especially Professor Longhair.The sound works for her. She’s won virtually every major and minor award the blues and rock can offer.”Once I found out about Professor Longhair,” said Ball, “I knew I had found my direction.”
Go and DoBlues legend Marcia Ball6 p.m. SaturdayBeaver CreekFreeVail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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