Marcia Ball

Live! Down the Road (Alligator)

Texas Platters

Marcia Ball

Live! Down the Road (Alligator)

Since joining Alligator Records in 2001, Marcia Ball's career has been on the upswing. The local pianist's last two releases have won W.C. Handy Blues Awards and nearly unanimous critical acclaim. Even so, Ball's best appreciated in a live setting, where she never fails to put on a butt-rockin' show. The long, tall one sits at the piano, legs crossed and swinging to the beat, her hands running up and down the ivory 88s with fiery determination. Meanwhile, the band stretches out, displaying their mighty chops, Ball touching all the cornerstones of her musical vision from New Orleans R&B and Louisiana swamp pop to Texas swing and ballads dripping with soul. Given all that, it might come as a surprise that Live! Down the Road is Ball's first in-concert release. What's not is the fact that the show, recorded at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, Calif., last year, is nearly 80 minutes of party time. Angela Strehli joins in for a romp through "It Hurts to Be in Love," and there are a couple of new tunes, including a bluesy take of Duke Robillard's "Just Kiss Me" that's straight out of the roadhouse. Live! Down the Road is a great career summary, making it the one Marcia Ball album everyone should own.

***.5

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