April 22, 2003 from ALLIGATOR RECORDS
"Raucous, Piano-based Dixie R&B classic Southern songcraft and passion." - Chicago Tribune
"Rollicking, playful, good time blues and intimate, reflective balladry...her songs ring with emotional depth." - Rolling Stone
Theres a roadhouse on the musical map where Texas blues meets Louisiana R&B, a place where Gulf Coast balladry mixes with rollicking New Orleans boogie-woogie, a place where people only stop dancing long enough to soak in the intensity of a slow-burning torch song. This is the place singer/ pianist/songwriter Marcia Ball calls home. For the past 30 years, Ball has been raising roofs, tearing down walls and stirring souls. Over the course of her three-decade career, Ball has earned a huge and intensely loyal following all over the world through critically acclaimed albums and continued non-stop touring. According to The Boston Globe, "Marcia Ball is a firecracker, combining killer piano with throaty-to-tender vocals. She delivers a hot kick that lingers." The Austin Chronicle heralds her as "a class act whose soulful, horn-laden swamp pop and murderous honky-tonk make her a stellar example of musical artistry."
Ball joined the Alligator Records family in 2001 and released the critically acclaimed PRESUMED INNOCENT (the ninth album of her career), which took home the W.C. Handy Blues Award for "Blues Album Of The Year." Now shes back with SO MANY RIVERS, featuring Balls trademark mix of raucous boogie and heart-melting ballads, but also exploring a wider variety of rhythms, lyrics and song structures than ever before. Produced by Stephen Bruton (who also plays guitar and mandolin on the album) and recorded at The Hit Shack in Austin, Texas, SO MANY RIVERS finds Ball at a creative high point in her career. Of the albums 14 songs, six are Ball originals and all are fueled by her mastery of two-fisted piano playing, swaggering rock and sweet Southern soul.
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, listening to and playing old Tin Pan Alley tunes from her grandmothers collection. From her aunt, Marcia heard more modern and popular music. But it wasnt until she was 13 that Marcia discovered the blues, as she sat amazed as 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 Irmas." In 1966, she attended Louisiana State University, where she played some of her very first gigs with a blues-based rock band called Gum, whose repertoire included more than one Irma Thomas song.
After graduating 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 wasnt long before Ball was performing in the citys 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-soul album Circuit Queen in 1978. She released six critically acclaimed Rounder albums 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 Antones 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 Balls longtime inspiration, Irma Thomas. The album, Sing It!, was released in January, 1998 and was nominated for both a Grammy® and a W.C. Handy Blues Award as Best Contemporary Blues Album. Ball also received the 1998 W.C. Handy Blues Award for Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year (and was nominated again in 2000, 2001 and in 2002) 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 have received glowing reviews in major music publications, and Marcia was featured on leading radio and television programs, including Austin City Limits and National Public Radios Fresh Air and Piano Jazz.
Since joining Alligator Records in 2001 and releasing PRESUMED INNOCENT, Ball has received more popular and critical acclaim than ever before. Billboard called the album "A stellar collection Ball is a formidable musical force, and this is her best vocal performance to date featuring polished performances and true grit, capturing the totality of Marcia like no previous album." The album was in the Top 20 chart positions at Album Network, Gavin and FMQB and won the W.C. Handy Blues Award for "Best Blues Album of the Year." Feature stories ran in magazines across the country, including Keyboard, DownBeat, Billboard, Blues Access (cover), U.S. News & World Report and in newpapers from coast to coast. Ball performed on National Public Radios Prairie Home Companion, World Cafe and WhadYa Know?, Public Radio Internationals Studio 360, the nationally syndicated Mitch Albom Show, and the PBS televised version of Mountain Stage. She was featured on CNN in 2002, and in February, 2003, she joined her friends The Hackberry Ramblers on NBC televisions Today Show. She is scheduled to appear in Piano Blues, the film directed by Clint Eastwood included in Martin Scorseses The Blues series to air on PBS television nationwide in Fall, 2003.
Balls move to Alligator Records - and her joining the roster of the influential Rosebud Agency for booking - were major milestones in her career. According to Ball, "Im thrilled to be on Alligator. They are totally committed to me, my career and my music." Alligator president Bruce Iglauer is equally excited. "Ive been a fan of Marcias for years, and Ive watched her grow from being a terrific interpreter of New Orleans and Texas blues and R&B into an excellent songwriter who can deliver a ballad that really touches your heart. Shes got one of the biggest, most devoted cult followings of any roots music artist, and she earns it by delivering some of the best party music and the most soulful, deepest blues and ballads night after night."
Now, with SO MANY RIVERS and a long list of high profile tour dates, Marcia Ball is poised to reach even greater heights. Fortune magazine declared, "Marcia Ball is one of the treasures of Austin. Shes one of the great New Orleans-style piano players: she can rock, she can boogie, she can play the blues." Time Out New York put it even more succinctly, simply stating, "this singer-pianist seems at the peak of her powers." Balls mastery of so many musical styles makes SO MANY RIVERS a soul-stirring journey: one that brings the roadhouses of Texas and the Gulf Coast to listeners all over the world.