Marcia Ball Is Bringing Bluesy Swamp Rock to Boca Raton
Mary Keating Bruton
Friday, Boca Raton is going to get a little taste of the swamplands.
Veteran blues crooner and musician Marcia Ball is bringing her rollicking, New Orleans-style piano jams to the Funky Biscuit, along with blues singer and guitarist Jimmy Thackery.
Since her first solo LP, Circuit Queen, in 1978, Ball has released about 15 albums and has performed at many festivals. Her latest album, The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man, released on Chicago-based blues label Alligator Records, is sending her on the road again.
It aptly came to fruition with a simple mental picture. "The image just popped into my mind, which is the beginning of it," Ball says, "and then the idea of the story and then the idea of how funny it would be visually to be able to actually follow that thread through and make the record all bright and tattoo-y, and everything just fell into place."
And the album is bright indeed. Starting out with the boogie-woogie-influenced title track, The Tattooed Lady features Ball's traditional swamp rock and zydeco-flavored, very danceable songs and is peppered with sweet, slow blues tunes in between. "The [title track] itself is kind of a love song about people who don't look ordinary, which is a very universal theme," Ball explains.
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However, most of the record is based on Ball's points of view on more serious matters. "The Squeeze Is On," which is what she calls a "pun within a pun," is a song about hard economic times and features the accordion, also known as a "squeezebox." "Clean My House," which seemingly talks about tidying up instead of sitting in bed, is actually more about mental health than homemaking.
"Clean out the fluff; get your mind clear," Ball laughs.
On The Tattooed Lady, Ball worked with Tom Hambridge, who has produced albums by such renowned blues musicians as Buddy Guy and Susan Tedeschi. The release is, in a sense, a refinement of the cultural infusion of sound she's been working on for almost 40 years. "Can't Blame Nobody but Myself" showcases her affinity for that genre and is, in fact, "the straightest 12-bar blues song I've ever written."
Ball credits much of her songwriting talent to the Live Music Capital of the World, right in the heart of Texas, where she lives. "There have been so many great songwriters in Austin all these years," she explains. "They raise the bar on how you write lyrics, how you tell your stories."
The winner of seven Living Blues Awards and a member of the Gulf Coast and Louisiana Music Halls of Fame, Ball always had music in her blood. As a young girl, her family enrolled her in piano lessons (her grandmother and aunt also played). Growing up on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, near the Texas border, Ball was surrounded by soul and Cajun sounds as well as the big artists of the day: Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Her parents mainly filled their household with homemade music, since they didn't listen to records or the radio that often.
"My parents liked to dance, and in my little hometown, there were lots of places to go dancing because, being on the state line, the Louisiana side was always looser than the Texas side," she describes. And of her current lifestyle, "To me I consider it the best of both worlds: I have great music tradition in Louisiana musical styles and the Austin songwriter styles, and I combine them both. And I do well in both places."
Despite touring throughout the year with her band, the 65-year-old doesn't feel like retiring just yet.
"I plan to keep on as long as I have the opportunity and the energy, and so far both those things are holding strong," she says. "I'm gonna keep on keeping on."
Marcia Ball with Jimmy Thackery. 9 p.m. Friday, December 5, at Funky Biscuit, Royal Palm Place, 303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton. Tickets cost $30 to 45 plus fees. Call 561-395-2929, or visit funkybiscuit.com.
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