March 20, the day she spoke with The Spokesman-Review, was blues singer and pianist Marcia Ball’s birthday.
After a rehearsal with her band, Ball was planning to celebrate by spending time with her grandsons then having a “big domino game/party/get together” with a bunch of her friends.
But she also celebrated with the announcement of the release of her upcoming album “Shine Bright” a few days earlier.
Ball is excited to perform a few songs from “Shine Bright” at the Coeur d’Alene Resort on Saturday as part of the Coeur d’Alene Blues Festival, which runs from Friday through Sunday.
“Shine Bright,” which will be released April 20, features nine new songs and Ball’s take on tunes by Ray Charles, Ernie K-Doe and Jesse Winchester.
Ball decided to cover Charles’ “What Would I Do Without You” simply because she loves the song.
The idea to cover K-Doe’s “I Got to Find Somebody” came after an old friend of Ball’s posted the song on Facebook.
“I knew within about four notes that I wanted to do that song,” she said.
The Winchester song, too, came from a friend.
Ball, a big fan of Winchester’s, hadn’t heard “Take a Little Louisiana” until a longtime friend, the man who signed her to her very first recording contract with Capitol Records, sent it to her.
“He didn’t even know I was in the process of writing and getting ready for this record,” she said. “That just came to the forefront of his mind and he sent me this song. It was just so perfect.”
When it comes to covers, Ball lets the song dictate how much she reworks it.
Ball kept the K-Doe and Charles songs mostly as is, save for key changes so she could more easily sing them. The Winchester tune was asking for a little something extra.
“He does it acoustic guitar, bouncy, folky sound,” Ball said. “I immediately heard it with a zydeco Cajun beat, so that’s what we did. We jumped it up.”
The song features Lafayette, Louisiana-based accordion player Roddie Romero, who fronts Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars.
Ball traveled to Lafayette specifically to work with Romero and singer Yvette Landry on “Take a Little Louisiana” and went on to record four songs at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, including the Shelley King- and Tim Cook-penned “When the Mardi Gras Is Over.”
“That’s when I’ll go home,” Ball said with a laugh. “And not before.”
The rest of the album was recorded with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) at Texas Treefort Studios in Austin, where the Texas-born, Louisiana-raised Ball has called home for the majority of her career.
On the verge of releasing her 14th album, Ball said people often ask her how each album will be different from the last one, but all she can promise is that it will be the best record she can make.
“It’s going to have songs that you can dance to and some songs that you can think about,” she said. “I think we did OK.”
Ball got her start performing in the band Gun while a student at Louisiana State University before fronting Freda and the Firedogs and eventually pursuing a solo career.
Ball earned her first Grammy nomination, for Best Contemporary Blues Album, in 1998 with “Sing It!” and her fifth, and most recent nomination, for Best Blues Album, in 2011 with “Roadside Attractions.”
She’s won six Living Blues Awards and nine Blues Music Awards, and she was inducted into the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2012.
More recently, the Texas State Legislature appointed Ball as an official 2018 Texas State Musician in May.
She’s grateful to have had such a successful career, though there is still one thing she’d like to check off her musical bucket list.
“I have been so fortunate to have been able to do so many things, go so many places, meet so many wonderful people, meet my heroes, like Irma Thomas,” she said. “There’s some I haven’t met but I am very happy to have been able to do what I have done.
“Then, like I said, to win a Grammy. I’d go for that.”
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