Marcia Ball honed her powerful singing and deft, rollicking keyboard chops while growing up in the small town of Vinton, Louisiana, on the Texas border. This musical and cultural frontier has produced such other roots-music greats as Gatemouth Brown, George Jones, Janis Joplin, Clarence Garlow, Cleveland Crochet, Clifton Chenier, Joe Bonsall and Johnny and Edgar Winter. It was and still is a hotbed of country, blues, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, rockabilly and Gulf Coast “swamp pop”, and young Marcia absorbed it all, even as she was receiving her formal piano training.
After attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Marcia hit Austin in the early 1970s, just as the Texas capital’s progressive country movement was growing. Ball was an important and popular figure on the Austin scene, first as the leader of the beloved Freda & The Firedogs, and then as a solo artist signed to Capitol Records. Her recorded debut was Circuit Queen, which appeared in 1978, and while artistically successful in the progressive country vein, the album quickly sank amid record company politics.
By the early ‘80s Ball was focusing on Gulf Coast rhythm & blues, and she’s never looked back. In addition to her critically acclaimed Rounder albums (Soulful Dress, Hot Tamale Baby, Gatorhythms, Blue House, and Let Me Play with Your Poodle), Marcia also found time to collaborate with Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton on a well-received album for the Antone’s label called 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 Irma Thomas and Tracy Nelson. The album, Sing It! was released in January 1998 and was nominated for both a Grammy and Handy as “Best Contemporary Blues Album”. Ball also appears as a featured singer with Cajun country legends, the Hackberry Ramblers, on their recent Deep Water album (on the Hot Biscuits label), where she makes her recording debut singing in Cajun French (“Les Blues de Bosco”).
Marcia Ball’s prolific studio work is sandwiched between live appearances that keep her constantly in touch with her legion of fans throughout the U.S. and Europe. She has appeared at virtually every major festival on both continents, received glowing reviews in all major music publications, and been featured on leading radio and television programs around the globe. She received the 1998 W.C. Handy Blues Award for Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year and was nominated again in 2000 as well, for Blues Instrumentalist-Keyboards. In 1999, Marcia and her band appeared In Performance At The White House along with B.B King and Della Reese which was broadcast nationally on WETA Public Television.
In early 2001, Marcia moved to Alligator Records, a much-respected blues label based in Chicago. Her first album for Alligator, Presumed Innocent, spent seven months on the Billboard Blues Charts, garnered a mountain of good press and won the 2002 W.C. Handy Blues Award for Blues Album of the Year.
Full-tilt or subtle as the moment demands, this unabashed powerhouse is at home playing roadhouse rock, jump-blues, second line syncopation (a la Professor Longhair, one of Ball’s idols), R&B, deep soul, and ballads. What’s more, Ball’s great singing and songwriting are matched by superb piano playing that is eclectic and effective.