Marcia BallSo Many Rivers (Alligator)
What's not to like about Marcia Ball? The long, tall South Austin singer-songwriter/pianist has built a long, tall career mining the musical mother lode that radiates out from her Texas-Louisiana border origins and stretches along the Gulf Coast's Route 90 from Houston to the Crescent City. Following on the heels of her first Alligator release, 2001's Presumed Innocent
, which won the 2001 W.C. Handy Award for Blues Album of the Year, Ball returns with another scrumptious, Southern-fried offering of boogies, blues, and ballads, nearly half of which are her original compositions. This time out, she has in tow the impeccable sensibilities of veteran Austin guitarist/producer Stephen Bruton to insure the smoky feel of a Texas roadhouse on a sultry Saturday night. What's become readily apparent in recent years is how Ball has matured instrumentally while broadening the material, the result being her downright soulful delivery. This is especially true on original, heartfelt ballads like "Give Me a Chance" and "The Storm," which maneuver the rocky straits of adult relationships. As always, the infectious street beat of New Orleans is at the core of any Marcia Ball album. The rollicking, horn-driven opener, "Foreclose on the House of Love," may be receiving the most local-radio airplay, but the Meters-style funk of the title track and gospel-rockin' "If It Ain't One Thing" are guaranteed to fill the dance floor. For good measure, Ball also throws in a Cajun high-stepper like "Honeypie," the sleek jump blues of "The Lowdown," and a belly-rubbin' Jimmy Reed groove on "Give It Up (Give In)." What's not to like?