Marcia Ball Knows the Blues, Loves the Blues and Lives the Blues
Over a career that has spanned nearly half a century, Marcia Ball has consistently released stellar album after stellar album. Her most recent effort was 2011's Roadside Attractions, a Grammy nominated tour de force that many critics have labeled as her best release ever. Speaking from her home in Austin and in anticipation of tonight's show at the Kessler Theater, Ball was kind enough to talk with DC9 about the evolution of the blues and why it's important to keep the blues alive.
How long have you lived in Austin?
You were born in Orange, Texas. Where the hell is that?
Orange is down is Southeast Texas by the Louisiana state line. It's close to Beaumont and Port Arthur.
How many people live there?
Orange is pretty big, but I am actually from Louisiana. There was just no hospital in my hometown, so that's how I got born in Orange. My hometown only has about 3000 people in it.
What did you do for fun?
Mainly for fun I played out in the yard. When I was 17 and graduated from high school I went to LSU.
Two of the many labels your music has been given are swamp Blues and Texas blues. Are there legitimate differences between these sub-genres of the blues?
Well, they are all different. There is a difference in every category that you mentioned. A lot of what I do is because I play the piano. It's based on a New Orleans style of rhythm and blues, a style based on Fats Domino and Professor Longhair. There is a certain influence of the Cajun accordionist Clifton Chenier.
The blues seems to transcend many musical genres. Does it evolve and is it important to keep blues music relevant?
It definitely has evolved. There are so many genres of the blues. You have Memphis blues and Kansas City swing and jump blues and boogie-woogie. There are just so many types of the blues. But yet they are all the blues. I don't think you can say there is only one form of country music. There are really so many.
But the blues is considered the only true American music.
That's what they say and that could be. It definitely came from the Mississippi delta. It also grew out of the African rhythms and experiences.
One blues great, Bobby Bland, recently passed away. There doesn't appear to be any great blues artists entering the scene to replace these legendary figures.
People are always looking for the next big thing and in Austin we have this fellow named Gary Clark, Jr. It's hard to say whether the person who is getting the most attention is the truest to the blues or whether it is people who are striving away at little clubs in Austin. We have a house band at a place called the Legendary White Swan. They are not really drawing a big old crowd. It's hard to say whether the people getting the most attention are the true players of the blues, the standard bearers. They might just be the most publicized.