Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marcia Ball's Superb New "Roadside Attractions"

A new album by Marcia Ball, Roadside Attractions (Alligator) will be welcome by her many fans who certainly will enjoy this release with its gulf coast grooves. This CD is produced by Gary Nicholson who has produced Delbert McClinton amongst others. One point of special interest is that Marcia wrote or co-wrote all the songs on this, and they are excellent songs. The performances are first rate, with consistently strong backing, whether provided by a small combo or a slightly larger group with a horn section.

The rollicking title track finds Marcia singing about all the sights and wonders of the world she has seen in her years on the road. There might be 7 billion people on this world but she is still her man’s girl and she is coming home. The country-flavored wistful
Between Here And Kingdom Come” celebrates life in a two lane highway and one red light small town while, We Fell Hard is a rocker sporting a hot New Orleans groove. Look Before You Leap, has a driving groove with a philosophical lyric about her mom warning her to look before you leap or she might find yourself in too deep in trouble.

I Heard It All is lyrically akin to Robert Cray’s Right Next Door (Because of Me). This song is about Marcia going to a regular Friday hotel rendezvous and hearing an argument in the next room. She soon realizes that the man she has been seeing is now begging his wife to take him back. Whereas in Cray’s recording, he is full of guilt for breaking up a marriage, Marcia cannot believe he is treating herself like that. She confronts the cheating husband in front of the wife, saying she heard it all and warning her that he cheated once and he will do it again. It is a marvelously nuanced vocal and performance. The mood shifts radically on the next track, funky Believe in Love, where she celebrates how her man keeps her believing in love. There is a terrific saxophone solo on this song.

This Used To Be Paradise, has a topical bent about how life in the gulf coast changed after the oil man changed things. The performance benefits from the understated lyrics and vocal along nice accordion in the accompaniment. Mule Headed Woman, is a wry, slow blues about Marcia’s man who will keep drinking “his whiskey, even if it is killing him.” Closing the album is the hot rocker, The Party’s Is Still Going On, and with Marcia, the party never ends. While that is true, the performances and lyrics here show increased thoughtfulness and sophistication. Marcia Ball is not only a hot tamale baby that can boogie the woogie, but is also a superb singer who brings to life the exceptional songs here. This explains in part why Roadside Attractions is so exceptional.

My review copy was provided by Alligator Records

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