She's a legend of blues piano, but singer-songwriter Marcia Ball is so charming you quickly consider her a good friend. In the KNKX studios, our audience cheered on Ball and her band like they were gathered for a good time on the front porch.
Ball's musical gumbo of Texas blues, boogie woogie and Louisiana funk has charmed audiences for 50 years. She was named the Official Texas State Musician for 2018, "purely ceremonial, I promise you," Ball told us. "I'd probably be barred from the (Texas) capital if they'd really known anything about me," she laughed.
Shine Bright from last year is Ball's latest album and is a favorite of All Blues host John Kessler. He asked Ball about some of the more political songs on this album. Kessler says she has a real skill for writing music that's both socially conscious and also fun. The title song, Ball says, "the idea is to perform aggressive acts of good, to do everything we can to lift up our world, our society."
"My grandmother played Tin Pan Alley, the music of her time," Ball relates. "My Aunt played the music of her time, the Great American Songbook, that's what was in the house when I was growing up."
By the time Ball got to college in the late 60s, rock 'n' roll was becoming the new popular music. "In 1968, everyone was starting a band. We thought, 'If those five scruffy guys in The Rolling Stones can do it, we can do it,'" she told us. "It's always been my good fortune to get with people who new more, played better, had more experience than me. That's how I've taken every step of my development as a player."
Those developments have led her to the top of the blues singer-songwriter mountain, as the new album Shine Bright makes clear. Ball says, "it was always my wish to add something to the body of work that is New Orleans music." As this studio session proves, her legacy is secure.