For Shine Bright, Marcia Ball was determined to make the best “Marcia Ball album” she could make. She may or may not have succeeded. Ball has so many great records to her name it would take a good long while to settle on a best. But this one certainly lives up to its name.
What defines a Marcia Ball album? One on which every song is diverse, but likely easy on the ears. An album that boogies, rocks, and rolls with Louisiana soul and Texas heat, as well as on Ball’s mighty fine 88s and smoky, soaring voice.
That Marcia Ball continues to be able to keep it fresh as she closes in on a half-century of performing, is extraordinary. This time, for the first time, Ball and producer Steve Berlin of Los Lobos recorded three different backing bands at two locales. One of course, was in Austin, Texas, and the other—for the songs that needed that special sauce—at the famous Dockside in Louisiana.
The Texas sessions feature Ball’s talented touring band with horns and more, while at Dockside, she’s backed by some of NOLA’s brightest. “Shine Bright” kicks it all off on a gospel-tinged, offbeat shuffle, and with the encouragement to make a difference for yourself, and others. Great to hear, right at the outset. “Life Of The Party” rides a shakin’ salsa groove, Ball beaming like a fruit-hatted Carmen Miranda.
The first of the swampy songs slides in with “When The Mardi Gras Is Over,” Ball all over the piano like Dr. John or Professor Longhair would be, and the band—including Berlin honking on sax—just cooking with fire. Most of Ball’s songs offer happy vibes, and with “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That,” she teamed with songwriter Gary Nicholson to come up with one that has both their signatures on it, and that projects universal appeal.
She does get serious on “Pots and Pans,” a tough, funky song of social unrest. But the album closes with the one-two punch of her own “Too Much For Me” and Jesse Winchester’s “Take A Little Louisiana,” both rollicking hard while defining the line between Texas and Louisiana. For an idea otherwise of what’s in store, the album’s dedicated to Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino, and Buckwheat Zydeco. So, take a load off, party hardy, and Shine Bright!
- Marcia Ball
Label: Alligator Records
Released: April 20, 2018