EAST TEXAS BLUES MEETS LOUISIANA SWAMP ROCK: Twice postponed Marcia Ball concert rescheduled for July 11 at the Bosque Arts Center
CLIFTON – Marcia Ball, piano player extraordinaire, will bring elements of Zydeco, blues, and boogie-woogie in her rollicking musical style to the Bosque Arts Center July 10. Often compared to Memphis Slim and Fats Domino for its New Orleans influence, Marcia Ball and her band will take the stage at 7 p.m. with doors open at 5:30 p.m. for pre-show with food and beverages.
Allmusic.com’s Mark Demming describes pianist and singer/songwriter Marcia Ball as a living example of how East Texas blues meets Southwest Louisiana swamp rock. And Ball plans to “rock the Bosque” when she comes to Clifton.
“I have a feeling the Bosque Arts Center is not among the smallest places I have played,” Ball said when asked her opinion of playing in small settings. “The intimacy of a show in a smaller venue allows us to slow down a bit, talk about our songs and what inspired them, really feel a connection to the audience.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t rock the Bosque. Our music is rhythm and blues with the emphasis on the rhythm.”
Born March 20, 1949, in Orange, Texas, Ball grew up across the state line in Vinton, Louisiana. Demming reports that the town is squarely in the heart of "the Texas Triangle," an area that includes portions of both states and has produced some of the country's greatest blues talents, including Janis Joplin, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Queen Ida Guillory, Lonnie Brooks, Zachary Richard, and Clifton Chenier, to name a few.
Ball began playing piano at age five, learning from her grandmother and aunt while also taking formal lessons from a teacher. Her earliest awareness of blues came over the radio, where she heard people like Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, and Etta James, all of whom she credits as influences.
She wound up in Austin in the ‘70s, where she put down roots and remained.
“My first husband and I were heading from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to San Francisco with flowers in our hair in the spring of 1970 when we stopped in Austin to visit some friends,” Ball said. “Our Austin-Healey Sprite needed some attention so while we were attending to that we were toured around the area.”
On the third night of their stay, they attended a house party near the University of Texas “where there were more hippies than we had ever seen in one place.
“On the front porch, a handsome older (than us) gentleman was playing guitar and singing. It was Bill Neely, and I was blown away,” Ball said. “I thought, if I can live in a town where I can hear music like this, I don’t need to go anywhere else.”
In a career spanning five decades, Ball has many, many memories and stories about the Texas music industry. In Austin, Ball made her mark in various genres, contributing to the Outlaw Country movement of the early ‘70s and continuing to log milestones in music. She was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame in 2018, the same year she was named Texas State Musician.
“My friends Irma Thomas, Tracy Nelson, Shelley King and Carolyn Wonderland joined me in performance that night. Very memorable,” Ball said.
Other memorable performances for her include playing at the White House and Knott’s Berry Farm with the Original Texas Playboys.
“My first time at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1978 was the largest crowd I had ever performed for at that time,” Ball said citing another notable concert. “I have played every year but one since then.”
Ball has won numerous awards for blues instrumentals. Her latest award was in 2019, the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player from the Blues Music Award Academy. “Shine Bright,” “Roadside Attractions,” “Sing It,” “So Many Rivers” and “Blue House” are just a few of her songs. Her most recent album “Shine Bright” according to Ball is “a ridiculously hopeful, cheerful record“ in spite of the political nature of some of the songs.
”The secret is to set the political songs to a good dance beat.” Ball said.
One of the things she loves about playing live, Ball said, is the connection to the crowd.
“For me, the interaction between the audience and the band is the most energizing thing about being a musician,” Ball said. “It’s the essential element of being an entertainer.I like to see the effect our music has on the listeners and hopefully, the dancers.”
The Ball concert was originally planned for March 14, 2020, then postponed twice because of COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings. Tickets buyers had the choice to keep their tickets or requested a refund. For more information, contact the Bosque Arts Center at 254-675-3724. Tickets can be purchased through the BAC website at: https://www.bosqueartscenter.org/tickets.aspx
Photos courtesy of MARY BRUTON
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