Called the queen of Texas and Louisiana piano, the Texas-born, Louisiana-raised Marcia Ball has an international reputation for her high-spirited and soulful boogie, blues and ballads. Ball has won numerous awards, including five Grammy nominations and induction into the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Her newest album, “The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man,” spills over with Ball’s scintillating storytelling and musical know-how.
Head over to downtown Arroyo Seco to hear Ball perform live Thursday (Aug. 10) on the outdoor stage at the Scott Carlson Pottery Gallery in Arroyo Seco. The concert starts at 6 p.m. and is brought to you by Seco Live, a nonprofit organization that brings world-class live entertainment to the village of Arroyo Seco. There is no cover charge, but donations to Seco Live are appreciated.
Ball grew up in a Louisiana town on the Texas border. Live music was the norm, and she recalls hearing rock and roll, Cajun music, soul and blues. She also remembers visits to her maternal grandmother in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she heard Fats Domino and other musical greats.
Irma Thomas was one of Ball’s early influences. Ball heard her at a show in New Orleans with her cousin when she was about 13 years old.
“She’s the first woman I ever saw lead a band onstage,” recollected Ball. “Her voice – her rich, full, wonderful voice, which she still has absolutely – and the great songs that she was singing made an impression on me I never forgot.”
Another later musical influence was Professor Longhair, the New Orleans pianist. When she heard him, Ball had already been in a few bands and was residing in Austin, Texas.
As a singer-songwriter, Ball considers herself to be a storyteller. She mostly writes about imaginary characters and situations.
“People ask if a song is autobiographical, but I think, like many writers, I’m more of a novelist than a memoir writer. It’s more storytelling than actual personal experience,” says Ball.
Ball said she usually takes notes on ideas that she might write about over a long period of time. They are sometimes bits and pieces of songs. Other times, they are long, whole poems. She then brings her ideas to the piano and comes up with a groove.
“I just wait for the right phrase to come and then build on that,” said Ball.
At other times, she takes the opposite approach, starting with a musical idea and bringing words to it.
While “The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man” is her latest CD, Ball has another one in the oven and baking.
She said what she’s noticed about this next one is that “it seems surprisingly hopeful and uplifting.”
“I’m glad because we need something hopeful and uplifting at this time.” She added, “I’m a little shocked at myself to be able to produce this.”
For her Arroyo Seco show, Ball will be playing tunes off of “The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man,” some of her brand-new songs, as well as some older ones. She is also happy to take requests from audience members.
For more information, visit marciaball.com.