Marcia Ball

Boarding House Park
40 French Street
Lowell, MA Venue Information
Buy Tickets Friday August 8, 2014 7:30 PM
$25 in advance / $75 premium / $30 day of concert
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Marcia Ball is a woman with a reputation. The Texas-born, Louisiana-raised pianist / vocalist / songwriter is famed worldwide for igniting a full-scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she strolls on stage. Ball's groove-laden New Orleans boogie and rollicking Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music fans all over the world. But she's also a master at transfixing her audience with an emotionally rich, passionately sung ballad. The Boston Herald says, "Ball plays masterful, red hot tracks from the Texas-Louisiana border. Her voice can break your heart with a ballad or break your back with a rocker." On her latest CD, Roadside Attractions (her 15th solo recording), Ball's songwriting is at the forefront, ranging from tales of wild parties to stories of twisted motel affairs to declarations of the enduring power of love and family. It is inspired by her years on the road and from insights gained from everyday life, making it her most autobiographical album. Roadside Attractions is certainly more than capable of starting a no-holds barred bash. But endless talent, and among the most emotionally moving recordings she has ever made.

Born in Orange, Texas, in 1949 to a family whose female members all played piano, Ball grew up in the small town of Vinton, Louisiana, right across the border from Texas. She began taking piano lessons at age five, playing old Tin Pan Alley tunes from her grandmother's collection. From her aunt, Marcia heard more modern and popular music. But it wasn't until she was 13 that Marcia discovered the blues, as, one day in 1962, she sat amazed while Irma Thomas delivered the most soulful and spirited performance the young teenager had ever seen. According to Ball, "She just blew me away; she caught me totally unaware. Once I started my own band, the first stuff I was doing was Irma's." In 1966, she attended Louisiana State University, where she played some of her very first gigs with a blues-based rock band called Gum.

In 1970 Ball set out for San Francisco. Her car broke down in Austin, Texas, and while waiting for repairs, she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. It wasn't long before she was performing in the city's clubs with a progressive country band called Freda and the Firedogs, while beginning to hone her songwriting skills. It was around this time that she delved deeply into the music of the great New Orleans piano players, especially Professor Longhair. "Once I found out about Professor Longhair," recalls Ball, "I knew I had found my direction."

When the band broke up in 1974, Marcia launched her solo career, debuting with the country album Circuit Queen in 1978. She released six critically acclaimed albums on the Rounder label during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1990, Ball-collaborating with Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton-recorded the hugely successful Dreams Come True.

At the end of 1997, Marcia finished work on a similar "three divas of the blues" project for Rounder, this time in the distinguished company of Tracy Nelson and her longtime inspiration, Irma Thomas. The album, Sing It!, was released in 1998 and was nominated for both a Grammy and a Blues Music Award as Best Contemporary Blues Album. She also received the 1998 Blues Music Award for "Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year" and for "Best Blues Instrumentalist-Keyboards." In 1999, Marcia and her band appeared in the nationally televised Public Television special In Performance At The White House along with B.B. King and Della Reese. Her albums and performances received glowing reviews in major music publications, and Marcia was featured on Austin City Limits and National Public Radio's Fresh Air and Piano Jazz.

Since the 2001 release of Presumed Innocent, Ball has received more popular and critical acclaim than ever before. Billboard called the CD "A stellar collection." So Many Rivers, her 2003 follow-up, continued the trend. Billboard again fueled the excitement, saying, "Ball is a consummate pro-a killer pianist, a great singer and songwriter. Powerful. Righteous." LIVE! Down the Road followed in 2005 with equally impressive praise across the board. The New Orleans Times Picayune said simply, "Bayou boogie has a queen and her name is Marcia Ball."

Ball has been the subject of feature stories in magazines across the country, including USA Today, Keyboard, DownBeat, Billboard, U.S. News & World Report and in newpapers from coast to coast. Ball performed on National Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion, World Cafe and Whad'Ya Know?, Public Radio International's Studio 360, the nationally syndicated Mitch Albom Show, and the PBS-televised version of Mountain Stage.

Ball even appeared in Piano Blues, the film directed by Clint Eastwood included in Martin Scorsese's The Blues series which aired on PBS television nationwide in Fall 2003. Since then, appearances on Austin City Limits and Late Show With David Letterman with The New Orleans Social Club not only reached millions of people, but helped to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. She is a five-time Grammy nominee, five-time winner of the Blues Music Award for Best Contemporary Blues and multi-year winner of the Living Blues Award.

With 2008's Peace, Love & BBQ and 2011's Roadside Attractions and a long list of high profile tour dates, Ball will bring her blend of Texas roadhouse boogie and Louisiana swamp blues to fans everywhere. Radio and critics continue to sing her praises. No Depression says, "Ball" takes her Louisiana R&B and soul from a stomp to the swamp and back. [She brings] dancehall power and majesty and no small amount of sly humor. Her hard-rocking, relentlessly rolling piano and heart-on-sleeve vocals don't take much of a breather. Relentless tunefulness and finely-honed storytelling make for a truly enjoyable ride." With her new CD and endless touring, Marcia Ball invites all her fans to ride with her as she spreads peace and love --and enjoys plenty of BBQ -- all across the world.

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