After lengthy negotiations and an exchange of certain
gifts and promises, the Web Gator is happy to announce
randomly scheduled messages from Marcia Ball, her own self!
She sings, We listen... She writes, We read...

September 10, 2014

BROKEN PROMISES

Oh, dear! Sometime around Thanksgiving 2013, I promised to write more and less, that is, more frequent and shorter posts. So, here we are past Labor Day 2014 and I’m finally cranking one out. Ironically, in reading the last post I noticed that I had just made a "big old lamb stew" and was hanging out with Kimmie Rhodes, reading good books and playing dominos. Well, not one bit of that has changed including the stew I made last night. Maybe that’s the trigger.

One difference is that back then I was talking about making a record and now we have done it! "The Tattooed Lady And The Alligator Man" hits the stores on September 23 and we go on the road immediately. Not that we haven’t been playing all over and for many good times all year long. We’ve had an exciting summer playing many of our favorite venues all over the country and we really appreciate seeing so many of you at our shows. Back in the spring we took a little time to concentrate on writing and recording the new CD. There are 11 originals on the new album and one cool Hank Ballard song, my excellent band and a couple of guests – Delbert McClinton and Terrence Simien, Red Young on B-3. Our good friend Tom Hambridge who we originally met on Delbert’s Sandy Beaches Cruise produced. Get you one (or several). Christmas is coming!

Monsieur le WebGator has our fall/winter schedule updated and you can always write to us here, so if you want details or have suggestions about where we should play in your area or just want to shoot the breeze, come on.

If you enjoy staring at your computer, you can "like" the Marcia Ball Musician/Band page on Facebook and get inundated with news of our travels, pictures of our lunches, and the opinions of our fans (and foes alike). Just be sure you have downloaded our music and are listening to it as you navigate. We are a multi-sensory experience.

Life has a way of getting complicated and while 2014 has been a wonderful year in many respects, it is also the most difficult because my mother passed away in July. She had a rich 92 year experience in this world and instructed my brothers and me to not be sad. Not so easy. She spent the last five years in Austin, close to us, and while she would have much preferred being at home in Louisiana, it was a gift to have her here and we had many fun times and happy adventures. She made some good friends at the Summit where she lived and stayed in touch with the sweet people of Vinton who never stopped calling and keeping her up to date on the news there. People have been amazingly thoughtful and comforting.

Staying busy seems to be the best cure for most ills so, we keep on keeping on and find much joy in life and love and the music of our friends and Super Moons and good food and gorgeous cloud filled skies and grandchildren and their parents and projects and art and rabble-rousing politics and travel.

We are coming to your neighborhood soon, and if we’re not, figure out where it is we should play and tell them and tell us. We’ve got the Strawberry Music Festival in Grass Valley, California, Tucson, and Poway and Beverly Hills, California, Dallas and Arlington, Covington (the one in Louisiana), Bay St. Louis, Conroe, Atlanta, Live Oak and Clearwater, Florida, New York City and all up in the East and that’s just in the next six weeks.

And most of all - record release festivities in Austin – in the Waterloo Records store on 9/23, on KUTX live on 9/24 and at the One 2 One Bar on 9/26.

And don’t forget the Sandy Beaches Cruise 2015! As the Gator sez: book it now, thank me later.

More soon. (Yeah, right!)

Well, apparently once I get started...


February 25, 2006

A BETTER WORLD

I have a new game. We just passed one of my favorite road stops - Traveler's FOOD and BOOKS. You get a free book with your meal and there's a basement full of books for sale, too. Now that's incentive. But we passed it by for a more practical multi-stop - gas, maps, thrift store - and the Rein's Deli in Vernon. Guess what state we're in: ____________? (1). Another hint - it's sprinkling snow. (Answers at the end)

It's February 24, just past President's Day (whatever), just past the halfway point of our tour of the Northeast (another hint), halfway to our gig in Princeton, NJ with Michael Doucet and the great Cajun band that's been around for 30 years, ____________? (2), running late. Oops. We used to have a rule that went "south in the winter, north in the summer" but a few years ago those nice people at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, IL convinced me that if we came up there in January, people would be glad to see us. Well, they were right. There's some serious partying to be done inside when it's cold outside and it gives us a chance to wear our sweaters and wooly hats. So now we take our chances with the weather and have no regrets.

This trip started in Bethel, Maine at the Gould Academy auditorium. Gould is a high school and the students have to come to the gig where they did what students are supposed to do. They jumped up and danced. Bethel is a pretty village of friendly folks close to the ski mountain. Hoot Night at Suds Pub features Denny Breau on guitar and the whole package makes for a great time. If we stopped at all the tempting antique stores along our route, we'd cover about 25 miles a day. We did hit the first one we saw, though, and picked up a pair of very nice Luchesse boots for Don. You just never know.

This has been an especially fun trip. The historic Stone Church in Newmarket, NH with breakfast the next day at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth was followed by the Chocolate Church painted guess what color ____________? (3) in Bath, Maine. Then we had our longest and most beautiful drive across the grain of New England from Bath to Burlington, VT where we played the new, bigger Higher Ground. There's not a lot of snow on the ground this year but the frozen ponds and creeks and the covered bridges and the farmsteads and villages are picture perfect. We stopped at the Marshfield, VT General Store for information and great fresh sandwiches made with Vermont cheddar. From Burlington it's another pretty drive down to Northampton, Mass. and the Iron Horse.

An aside: this year the International Folk Alliance Convention was held in Austin and if one of these happens in your town, like next year when it will be in ____________? (4), you should go. They get about a thousand acts and put them all in one hotel in all of the meeting rooms and ballrooms plus, up in the regular rooms and suites, people move all the furniture out or around, decorate, put in little PA's (or not) and have showcases that go all day and all night. There's music in the elevators, lobbies, hallways, there are films and informative panels and a trade show. It's exhausting. Go. And the reason I mentioned it in the first place is that the official showcases are named for clubs famous for featuring acoustic music around the country like the Iron Horse, the Birchmere, and the Cactus Café.

Now we've finished our two night stand at Sculler's in Boston. We're criss-crossing the area alternating gigs with our friends the subdudes, C.J. Chenier and my mentor, ____________? (5) who came to our gig Wednesday night and sang our greatest hit, "Sing It" with me. She'll be back down in New Orleans on Mardi Gras night for a show out in front of Harrah's Casino. We'll be doing the same thing on Monday night (Lundi Gras). But first we finish up this trip at Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ, the Rams' Head Tavern in Annapolis and jump back up to the American Theater in Hampton, VA.

Speaking of Mardi Gras, Linda sent me a link:

http://www.armychic256bde.com/id42.html

showing the Louisiana National Guard in Iraq having a Mardi Gras parade. I love those people. Another friend, Jim Gabour, writes a journal about living in New Orleans post-Katrina at this site:

http://www.jimgabour.com

My nominations for a Pulitzer (like they asked) go to Anderson Cooper for his on-the-spot reporting and continued attention to the situation on the Gulf Coast and to the New Orleans newspaper, ____________? (6) for not just surviving but thriving and rising to the occasion after the storm. The New York Times also has something almost every day.

Also, there's a long wonderful terrifying piece by Bill Moyers at:

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/022406A.shtml

which, after making you sick with chapter and verse on the state of American politics today, offers some hope for change if only we rise to the occasion. Everyone should read it. It closes with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

"We are standing for elementary decency in politics. We are fighting for honesty against naked robbery. It is not a partisan issue; it is more than a political issue; it is a great moral issue. If we condone political theft, if we do not resent the kinds of wrong and injustice that injuriously affect the whole nation, not merely our democratic form of government but our civilization itself cannot endure."

I guess what I'm saying is, don't just take my word for it. Great minds are trying to think us into better government. Brave people are calling us to action. Great songs are being written by Rodney Crowell, James McMurtry, Mary Gauthier, Eliza Gilkyson and my friend Chip Dolan who wrote "Bucktown".

When we played in New Orleans in January, people came out and danced the night away. With hope and love and faith and joy which are the attributes which sustain us and also the names of ____________? (7), I thank you for staying with us and dancing the night away. Earl King said it best: "Let's Make A Better World To Live In".




Here are the answers to the game:

(1) Connecticut
(2) Beausoleil
(3) Brown
(4) Memphis
(5) Irma Thomas
(6) The Times Picayune
(7) My mother and her sisters



July 6, 2006

GOODNESS GRACIOUS

Great balls of... procrastination!

Dear friends,

I began the Ball Bearings which follows on May 8, as we came home from Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Then I lost it. Well, really, I just put it aside and went on to play gigs, write songs (yeah!!), buy airline tickets and plan road trips. Gordon and I took a week and went to Oaxaca, Mexico to check it out. We loved it.

We've celebrated Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, Mama's birthday, Pat's birthday, played a whole raft of gigs - great gigs - including Swamp Romp at Wolftrap, Michael Arnone's Crawfish Boil in New Jersey, Rehoboth Beach, DE with Buckwheat Zydeco, Syracuse, NY Jazz Festival with Dr. John, Napa Opera House, Summerfest and Fitzgerald's American Music Festival with a whole bunch of musical friends. At that one, it was hard to choose between Phil Alvin outside and Pat McLaughlin inside, Jimmy LaFave inside and C.J. Chenier outside. Fitzgerald's - the best big festival in a small place. I could devote a whole page to the gig with the Cincinnati Symphony. This was a production beyond my wildest anticipation - singers, dancers, bright lights and complicated sets, an opera singer - Gregg Baker - who was born to sing Old Man River, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The finished product will be on Public Television sometime in the fall.

Meanwhile, back in May I wrote about the Jazz Fest and then went off into the situation in New Orleans where I bogged down like the relief effort. Bear with me, please, as I try to balance my creative life as an entertainer with my conscience and my concern for my beloved city, the Gulf Coast and America. I think it's possible, even important, to do this and if my politics don't please everybody - oh, well. Thank you, as ever, for even reading this far.

WHAT I WROTE THEN:

MAY 8, 2006

I want to do this while it's fresh. We're on our way home from Jazz Fest and it has been such an emotional, incredible, musical and visual experience that it's getting away fast. A week ago I left Austin and went to Houston to play with Carol Fran and her band at the International Festival. Don and Thad went with me and we joined Carol's band mid-set for a few songs. Carol was "on", as always, and we sang together and played and danced. Rebirth Brass Band played before us and Gino Delafose followed. What a way to start the week. Then I went east to Louisiana and the boys went west to pick up the rest of the band.

Monday night is Piano Night with a capital P and N. This year the show was at the House of Blues and the place was full. WWOZ broadcast it all and for at least six hours in two rooms two or three or four piano players at a time demonstrated why New Orleans is the piano center of the universe. Tom Mc Dermott, Joe Krown, Josh Paxton, Dave Ellington, and on and on. David Torkanowsky played the keys, the strings, the hammers. He whistled. He ruled. He brought Zigaboo Modeliste to play drums and Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, Fess's conga player, with him. The "house" band while I played was Shannon Powell, Cassandra Faulkener, Jimmy Bolero, and Marc Stone. They didn't miss a beat. And then, of course, to ice the cake, here comes Eddie Bo and the whole thing is lifted up a notch. There's Herb Hardesty and Charlie Miller. Eddie pulls us together with his rhythm and his smile and we all feel like part of New Orleans' musical family.

Our family is scattered to the four winds and seeing old friends meet and talk about where they've been and what they've been through is part of being in The City now. So much music happens every day and night during Jazz Fest that, in the Times Picayune, Keith Spera writes about what he saw and then about what he missed. On Wednesday night after Tom McDermott and Joe Krown and I played Snug Harbor, just trying to get back to my car we ran into Henry Butler leaving Walter "Wolfman" Washington's set to go down the street to play with Dr. Lonnie Smith and Donald Harrison.

I love just being there talking to people from all over the country and the world. Edgard from Sao Paolo, Aigars from Latvia, Chris from Taos, Luis from Veracruz, Tommy and Nancy from North Carolina, Great Graham from Britain. Old friends, new friends. Drinking a bloody Mary on Richard and Vivian's front porch. Eating crawfish with Art and Lorraine and watching their daughter working on a boiled crab like a future surgeon.

What I saw: the Savoy Family Band, Ellis Marsalis, the subdudes, Big Chief Bo Dollis, Henry Butler, Gatemouth's band, Tab Benoit, Marva Wright. What I missed: The Meters and Robert Randolph, Irma.

What I also saw: the Lower Ninth Ward, the Upper Ninth, Chalmette, Mid-City, Lakeview, Bucktown. Nobody in New Orleans is unaffected by Katrina and the breached levees. It's a changed city in the most profound sense and pictures don't convey the destruction, the frustration, the corruption or the dogged determination and hope that it takes to face each day. Women of the Storm, Common Ground, Voices of the Wetlands, the New Orleans Musician's Clinic, individuals and institutions are working every day to rebuild and restore New Orleans. They could use a lot of help, still. It's a mess down there. As the Women of the Storm have requested, if you have a nodding acquaintance with a Senator or a Congressman, please ask them to go to New Orleans and the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coasts and then try, please try, to do something meaningful and real for the people down there.

And, go see "An Inconvenient Truth", the movie about global warming. It's important, informative and not about politics unless you think air and water are political.

Big old thanks to Pat Mushlin for pushing me off dead center.

One final note - on May 23, Austin and the blues world suffered a great loss with the death of Clifford Antone. There's an excellent new video just out called "Antone's, Home of the Blues" which was meant to be a celebration of the 30 year old club and Clifford's support of the artists who played there. Cliff should have been here to travel around with the film and talk about the blues as only he could, with encyclopedic knowledge and enormous love. Instead, the film stands as a fitting memorial to Clifford. You can get it locally or on Amazon. It's full of great footage of the legends. Clifford was 56 years old.

So...as usual, I'll close with instructions (a nag, in other words). Get a stress test, check your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, have those other tests that nobody wants to have. If it's wanky, get it fixed. Stick around. We need you.





September 21, 2006

WOKE UP THIS MORNING...

In the instruction manual on How To Write A Blues Song that's the first line... and then you go on to say how your baby left you, etc. This has worked for several generations because people keep waking up, fortunately, and babies keep leaving. If you've seen us play in the last six weeks, you've observed that Pat Boyack has left us. We wish him the best of luck and everything else. He's a great guitar player.

For the month of August, our friend Seth Walker filled the guitar spot, helping us out in the middle of his own busy and growing career and now, into the future, we have Mike Keller, brother of drummer Corey. Mike has had a full schedule playing his own gigs here in Austin and on the road with Doyle Bramhall and Gary Primitch and others. I hope you'll all come out and see this great young player working with us. It's always hard to make a change and I know that you get attached to the people in the band and not just their playing so we try to keep it as stable as possible in a business not known for its stability but sometimes, as the song says, "a change is gonna come", whether we like it or not.

So, the last Ball Bearing left us in May. May?!?! Well, I can't complain about having a lot of work to do; that's what keeps us in puppy food, but I can't believe the summer's gone already. I made notes along the way and then buried them under piles of other stuff. Seth observed, a couple of weeks into his stint with us that, "You leave for three days and when you get home, you're a week behind." And that's the way it is. I haven't actually completely unpacked my suitcase since probably April. I just rotate things into the washer, the dryer and back. Once again, not complaining.

We've had a wonderful summer of gigs, returning to some of our favorite places like Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, IL for the Great American Music Festival, to Boardinghouse Park in Lowell, MA, to Rockland, ME for the North Atlantic Blues Festival, the Sedgewick County Zoo in Wichita, KS and Summerfest in Milwaukee. We also broke some new ground in Omaha and Albany, and Syracuse. Then we went overseas.

There was good news and bad news. Bad: two of our gigs fell through, one in Italy and one in Spain. Good: an extra day in Rome and two extra days in Madrid, two places I've never been before. Thanks to Rafaella, our tour manager, we covered as much ground in Rome as our little (and big) feet could manage and got an ancient history lesson in the deal. Then we went to Catania, Sicily and played at an amphitheater where the backdrop, in the distance, was Mount Etna, aglow with flowing lava. The next day we played on the island of Sardinia. The drives along that Emerald Coast were breathtaking. Then we flew to Madrid. Then we slept all day.

And then we hit the city and the Sunday morning flea market. I explored a lot of the city, fancy neighborhoods like Salamanca and the area around the train station and the markets there. We went to the Prado one day and I went to the museum of a favorite artist of Gordon's and mine, Joaquin Sorolla. We'd usually head for the Plaza Mayor and strike out in any direction from there. There was plenty to see and plenty to eat. One great advantage: our hotel was across the street from a department store with a grocery, deli, bakery on the ground floor. At the end of a day of walking, we could make our own tapas in the hotel room with food from the deli, have a really good bottle of Spanish wine for 4 or 5 Euros, and soak our aching feet.

In Madrid, we ate at Botin, which lays claim to being the oldest restaurant in Europe. Also, we saw huge stores full of religious accessories - hosts and wine, windows full of baby Jesuses, Bishop's hats and priest's cassocks. Even nunderwear, in case you ever wondered what was under there.

From Madrid to Cambridge, England, where Jessica and I snuck into some of the college courtyards and climbed to the top of St. Mary's church for the view. We played our first Cambridge Folk Festival and enjoyed seeing Great Graham and being interviewed on BBC. Too soon, we had to leave but only to go across the Irish Sea to Galway, Ireland where it was 25 degrees cooler and rainy just like it's supposed to be. We played the Galway Arts Festival with Charmaine Neville and Allen Toussaint and the evening's finale, singing Louisiana 1927 with Charmaine while her piano player, Amasa Miller, and Allen accompanied us, was about the high point of my summer.

To finish off this trip, we had two days in Ireland and I had to work up the nerve to drive a car on the left if we wanted to do any sight-seeing at all. So I went to the airport and rented a car and drove it back alone to pick up Don, Corey and Johnny. I figured if I couldn't do it, I was the only one at risk for the first 50 miles. As it turned out, it was a snap, except for parallel parking from the wrong side of the car. Also, it had a standard transmission and for a while, every time I tried to shift I'd reach down to the right and open my car door. We saw castles and villages and peat farms and flocks of sheep. Beautiful.

But...and I know this is going on and on - I'm getting to the end here - when we got back to the USA, my country right or wrong, and we drove from Atlanta to Kingsport, TN and to Brevard, NC, we saw some of the most beautiful scenery of the whole trip. Those Smokey Mountains just knock me out.

So, we'll leave it here for now, except that when I got home there was Gordon, and there was Sonny Boy and there was a flurry of activity behind Sonny that turned out to be a grey and black fur ball of Aussie named Lily who moved in the minute I left the country.

And this just brings us to August where we'll take up next time, sooner than later, I'm thinking, because there's still plenty going on and we're going plenty. We're playing New Year's Eve at the Crystal Bay Casino in North Lake Tahoe in case you're casting about for something special to do. Then we're going on the Delbert and Friends Sandy Beaches Cruise, our annual "debaucheries on the high seas", in case you're looking for something really special to do.

For all you Austinites, we're actually playing in the region on Friday, September 29, at The Oaks, on Highway 969 south of Manor. It's an old-fashioned roadhouse and the weather should, fingers crossed, be great. Another site to check out for what promises to be an amazing festival is Tall Stacks in Cincinnati, OH - five days of great acts and cheap! Plus about twenty paddlewheel riverboats.

And now, wash, dry, pack, pet the dogs, sleep and go. There's music to be played, dances to be danced. I hope the Autumn where you are is long and colorful. I guess I should wait until October to decorate for Halloween but it's hard not to put the old skeleton on the door as soon as the temperature starts dropping even a little. Trick or treat for world peace.




December 25, 2006

HAPPY HOLIDAYS...

To all my friends, fellow travelers, sweet little rock ‘ n’ rollers, old folkies and new,

This is to wish you happy holidays, no matter what you are celebrating – Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, the Winter Solstice, Festivus, your end-of-year bonus, the biggest shopping day of the year, two weeks off from school, or the gathering (and subsequent going-home) of your entire family. If you’ re like us, you’ re cooking, eating, shopping, cooking, decorating, cooking, eating, donating, cooking, visiting, cooking and eating. We don’ t have a tree because we’ re short on space and long on puppy, so we have an odd little tropical plant and a poinsettia on a table covered with Mexican oilcloth and family gifts – altogether a south of the border look that fits right in our South Austin casa.

Mama’ s here. She’ s beat us at Knock (31) and Mexican Train dominos but I’ m still ahead in Scrabble.

They’ ve threatened us with a white Christmas. Yeah, right! It has been cool and raining and visitors to Austin would prefer pretty weather but we who live here consider a two day soaking to be the best gift of all. There has been a Jingle Bell Run, a Jingle Bell bicycle ride, the Trail of Lights, neighborhood lighting contests, two hour traffic jams in the mall parking lot, and an apparent run on red shirts and scarves.

It’ s Christmas Eve. I’ m shocked! It’ s 2 PM and I’ ve cooked three and a half meals, talked to four relatives on the phone, entertained company, ordered gifts on-line for post-Christmas delivery and I’ m still in my pajamas. I bossed Gordon around until he left the house. I have an uncontrollable urge to go out and join the fray, fight traffic, buy useless baubles.

Altogether, whatever you believe, it’ s a good time to be kind and generous and polite, stay warm and drive carefully. If you can’ t think of what to give to your friends who have too much already, donate. They’ ll love it. Thanks for the Christmas cards, especially the ones with pictures of growing families. Congratulations to those who can actually get things in the mail for timely delivery. Thanks for another year of the pleasure of your company.

We’ ve all lost close friends and family this year and that makes the holidays hard. There are big empty places. This makes me appreciate the people in my life all the more, however close or far away. Every minute counts, every smile, every word. Share your love. Please, if you have any influence at all, pray for peace on Earth.




May 14, 2007

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY

It figures that if anything could get me writing again, it would be a meal. Breakfast – the most important meal of the day. This one, at Benedict’ s in East Dundee, Illinois, was a true eye-opener. Maybe it was because the oatmeal with baked apples and cinnamon walnuts was world class or that the spinach and feta omelet was so light that it floated above the plate. Maybe it was the good coffee or the family sitting behind us with the laughing kids but the day just started out right. That’ s a good breakfast, a new beginning.

We came out into a frigid April wind and headed for Madison with Taj Mahal on the stereo, thinking about when we played the Madison Blues Festival with him. All the optimistic little gardens in Austin are getting frost-nipped and the Sunset Valley Boys have a gig at the Evangeline Café this afternoon. We had two weekends off and the result was a lot of piano playing, some song-writing, a rehearsal, days of housekeeping and hauling out, plenty of party and gig-going, a renewed appreciation for Austin’ s endless list of things to do, a spring cleaning of the brain.

We’ re always happy to get back to work and this run is the perfect start. Dundee, East and West, looks like a catalog of Prairie Style houses, streets and streets of them, each one unique, brick and shingle, board and batten. The Fox River runs, really runs, between. We had a great crowd of mostly locals who appreciated not having to drive into the city or fly somewhere to see us. Now, after that great breakfast, we’ re off to Madison, Austin’ s unofficial sister city with enough time to drop in at the best bookstore in a town full of them, the St. Vincent de Paul. Like I need a book!

Speaking of which: the reason I have a stack of reading material stockpiled is that I had a birthday and the books came in spite of the “ no gifts” request. Don and Debbie threw a wonderful party for me with the band and our immediate and extended families. There’ s a whole string of birthdays to celebrate, I was going to say this month, but the celebration seems to carry on and on, and celebrate we should. Several of the Domino crowd and Nancy Coplin were in March and Bob Curley and Winker are on April calendar so far. Shake, shake. Get some cake.

In early March we had a run of dates as part of the Louisiana Crossroads series – New Iberia, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles. The series features the various aspects of Louisiana music and mixes things up a bit. In our case, we did three of the gigs with Terrence Simien as our special guest. I had the pleasure of singing a duet with him on his latest album so we did that song together and he played accordion and sang with us on our stuff. In Lafayette, we played with the University Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. William Hochkeppel. That was so much fun that we’ re going to ask them to play with us again at the Festival International in Lafayette. All four gigs were well-attended and well produced by the theaters and by Todd Mouton (Cuz), Vicki Chrisman and Carl Fontenot. It was great to go home and play our music for the people that my songs are about.

Damn! Six weeks later – I should have just shot this off the day I wrote it. Now we’ ve had about 20 more gigs and the whole Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Let’ s see how I can short cut this:

The Barrymore in Madison, WI: Cold weather, warm audience, Austin’ s sister city always makes us feel good.
The Dakota in Minneapolis, MN: Beautiful jazz club, very nice people, the best food of any club we play.
Casbeer’ s in San Antonio, TX: Little old honky-tonk, full house, great cheeseburgers.
Antone’ s in Austin: Home of the Blues and our home club, early show, good crowd, lots of friends and family.
Rockin’ The Boat Premier: Jay Curlee’ s film about Delbert’ s Sandy Beaches Cruise, you have to see it to believe then you have to go on it.
New Orleans Social Club: I was a special guest, any day spent playing music with Ivan Neville, George Porter, Jr., Henry Butler, Raymond Weber and Leo Nocentelli is a great day with me, had my first In And Out Burger, yum..
Texas Music Unplugged: A songwriter’ s showcase at the Center For Texas Music History in San Marcos, always inspiring and in this case awesome, with Ruben Ramos, Barbara Lynn, Randy Rogers and Colin Brooks, many thanks to Dee Lannon, Gary Hartman and, as ever, Cheatham Street’ s Kent Finlay.
Festival International in Lafayette, LA: Our first time there, they’ ve loosened up a bit and you don’ t have to sing entirely in French to get on the show, the wonderful string ensemble from U. of L. joined us again and it was magical, the whole area smells like gumbo, thanks again, Dr. Hochkeppel.
Jazz Fest (filling in on Bobby Charles’ set): Sonny Landreth and his band, Dr. John, David Egan, Shannon McNally, Parker James and I all doing Bobby Charles songs like “ See You Later, Alligator, “ Walking To New Orleans, “ The Jealous Kind”, his health prevented him from coming and he was sorely missed.
Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans: With Allen Toussaint, enough said except that Mike Keller filled in for his bass player and did a great job, of course.
Jazz Fest: The big gig of my year, right before Jerry Lee on the big stage, then a dash over to see Irma Thomas and sing “ Sing It” with her, wish I could have been there the next weekend to hear Irma do her tribute to Mahalia Jackson.
Piano Night: Fundraiser for WWOZ at House of Blues, solid piano players from 6 PM to 2 AM with great backing bands, a grand finale with Eddie Bo.
Instruments A Comin’ : Tipitina’ s Foundation big annual fundraiser for buying instruments for school children and professional musicians, a grand cast of bands, we met Fats Domino – no, let me emphasize – WE MET FATS DOMINO. That’ s me starstruck on the right..
Fats Tribute Recording: There’ s a record being made that is a tribute to the above mentioned and pictured Fats Domino, the line-up is world class, they got us to accompany Irma, her horn guys Emile Hall and Percy Williams joined us, I think we got a real good cut.
Lafayette Park in New Orleans: The great free Wednesday gig during Jazz Fest, a full park, lots of people just coming in for Jazz Fest stop off there.
Snug Harbor: With Joe Krown and Tom McDermott, some serious piano players showing off, this time joined for a finale by Josh Paxton and Will Sargeson, two young pianists, seriously showing off, too, one of my scariest gigs, solo and out of my depth but fun.
House of Blues Parish: Winding down the week with a real club gig, no tricks just a good crowd.
Howling Coyote in Houston: A new venue for us and a lot of fun, I hope we can be regulars there.
Austin Girl’ s School fundraiser: A panel of women in music sitting around talking – Martie Maguire (Dixie Chick), Sarah Hickman, Kelly Willis, Darcy Deville, Nancy Coplin and me. It was a fun conversation which we would never have had without the questions asked by the school’ s students, insight for us all, true confessions and music.

Well, it was a wonderful month and in writing about it I got to remember the high spots all over again.

Great idea! I’ m going to send this off right now.

I hope all you mothers out there had a happy day and heard from the ones you love. I hope you reminded them about changing their little diapers and all, pulled out the naked baby pictures, generally embarrassed them in front of their friends and spouses. That’ s how you get back at them for those “ over the hill, black balloon, cake in flames” birthday cards you get every year.

To anyone who has befriended a neighbor, rescued a pet, volunteered, donated, fund-raised for a worthy cause, done a good deed, from me to you, sincerely, Happy Mother’ s Day.





August 28, 2007

HOW SHE CARRIES ON

Backstage at Bodega – Wine, Art and Music Festival – with the most cordial parking lot attendants we’ ve ever encountered. Wine glasses in hand, they directed us to park anywhere we liked as long as we promised to have a good time. Okay, then. There’ s a salsa band playing, fresh peaches and bite-sized brownies on the hospitality table. It’ s about 80 degrees in the shade. This is how all Ball Bearings start, usually inspired by either a place or a meal. In this case it’ s both.

We’ ve spent most of the summer avoiding the Texas heat and the unusually rainy weather by playing in Wisconsin, Maine, Washington and California. So far, it’ s working fine. In Wisconsin, we went from Green Lake to Long Lake to Green Bay and all the way up through Door County to the tip of the thumb. We braked for cherries and strolled around the picturesque villages along the bay. We had a fun three night stand at the Oneida Casino bar and days of digging through junk stores thrifts and vinyl stores. It’ s my personal form of working out: shopping for exercise. The trick is that I’ ve turned the corner from acquisition to disposition. I’ m not collecting anymore. I’ m distributing.

The place that really set me to writing this is a barn in Brownfield, Maine that we visited two weeks ago. First, we got lost so we saw a bit more of the lake country of Maine than we had intended to. Then, when we finally got into the vicinity of the Stone Mountain Art Center, out where the cell phones don’ t run, we couldn’ t figure out how anybody was going to find us and the gig. But when we went inside, it was a jaw-dropper. The “ barn” is a beautifully restored building. The stage across the far wall is backed by cathedral windows that evoke the tall pine trees of the woods outside. The seating is tables and chairs set for dinner for two hundred. The sound is first class, the food, excellent, the hospitality, the best ever. All of this is the brainchild of Cheryl Noonan, a singer-songwriter and fellow Rounder recording artist when we were both on the label. Cheryl was not as fond of the road as we intrepid Marcia Ball Banders are, or maybe she had something to fall back on which we obviously do not. So she set out to create the kind of venue she wished she had encountered in her travels. Bless their hearts, I bet they thought we’ d never leave that night. I’ ve observed that if there are a thousand CD’ s and a player backstage, no one gives it a second glance, but if there are LP’ s and a turntable, we’ ll spin platters until they throw us out.

So, after they threw us out and we had a good night’ s sleep we set out for Ellsworth, Maine. The trip took us through more great scenery and as we pulled into town and I found WERU on the radio they were playing “ Money Over Love” by Doug Sahm and then “ Dinero” by Augie Meyers. I turned it up and danced on the sidewalk on Main Street, Ellsworth. The Grand Theater was just that, grand. Dinner across the street was delicious. We commented as we ate the butternut squash ravioli and the scallops, about how people ask if it’ s hard to eat right on the road. Once again, so far, it’ s working fine.

We started that weekend in Matunuck, Rhode Island, at the Ocean Mist. Kevin made the hot salsa we crave and he said that I always say he gives us too many goodies backstage so he held it down to the basic deli tray plus fruit, veggies, chips and only six cannolis, six eclairs and a box of chocolate chip cookies! How restrained is that? Then Gino and Adele showed up with a bottle of Gino’ s Vino, another of his many talents.

Before this trip we had taken about ten days off and I went to Louisiana to visit my mother for a few days. We celebrated our friend Sherry’ s birthday eating boiled crabs and we gave her a rocking chair for the front porch of her new house that replaces the one that Hurricane Rita took. Remember Rita? The one after Katrina that tore up the rest of Louisiana and southeast Texas.

Getting back to work always feels good. After the show that first night, I was struck by how lucky I am to get to do what I love so much and to love what I do. Counting blessings left and right.

Truisms I have learned: If a t-shirt is too small, no amount of pulling or pushing your fist around in it is going to make it fit any better.

Another: If you are a movie star like Kirsten Dunst or anyone who can buy a $13,000 purse, you should be embarrassed to tell anybody about it even if it gets stolen. The fact is that $13,000 dollars would be a life-changing event for a lot of people – two years of college, desperately needed transportation, a year’ s rent. A person who has that kind of ridiculous bounty should put a note on her refrigerator that says, “ It’ s not okay to be so shallow “ . Think New Orleans, think Habitat for Humanity, think Food Bank, think Boys and Girls Clubs. Think.

Did I go off? Well, y’ all know that happens.

The last time I wrote about our travels was way back around Mother’ s Day. I’ m not even going to try to catch up. We’ ve had a busy summer and we owe thanks to so many people for making the road much more than tolerable. We do truly have the best fans and friends around the country. Club owners always comment on how nice our crowds are and I just nod knowingly.

In June, we played the Kate Wolf Memorial Festival in Laytonville, CA for the first, and I hope not the last, time. When you drive up to the site, the first thing you see is a ten foot lit-up peace sign hanging in the trees. The first thing we heard was Eliza Gilkyson and Nina Gerber playing music so heartbreakingly beautiful that all of the jaded fellow artists backstage were paying attention. That’ s something. I got to visit with Rosalie Sorrels and Wavy Gravy. Don bought me a bronze peace sign on a string from Wavy and we all sat backstage sipping that good California red while a great bunch of young acoustic players jammed.

In July, we revisited one of our favorite festivals, Portland Blues, where Kaz and the Texas Horns played with us and fattened up our sound and Mike Keller blew the lid off of the place with his guitar. Also, for most of July we celebrated Antone’ s anniversary with various events there including Pinetop Perkins’ birthday. If you ever wonder what to give the piano player who’ s done everything, send some McDonald’ s gift certificates to Antone’ s in his name.

Speaking of birthdays, it seems like July and August are hot months in that way, too. Besides Pinetop’ s 94th, in July we had Agnes, Margie (not Marge) Simpson, Bruce Iglauer at Alligator and our old horn player Paul Klemperer. In August, it’ s my son Luke and our friend John T. on the 5th, Don and Johnny on the 16th and Corey on the 22nd. Happy Birthday, babies.

If you’ ve seen our shows lately, you know we’ re trying out some new material, getting ready to make a new record in the fall. We’ re working again with Stephen Bruton and I’ m very excited about the songs we’ ve found and written for this one. It has been longer than usual since we were in the studio, partly because I wasn’ t writing very much and that was partly because I’ ve been so angry and distressed about the state of our government. It seemed like I spent a lot of time arguing, fretting, painting radical messages on the windows of my car. Finally, though, the pain of not writing exceeded the pain of writing and, in spite of my dismal outlook, I’ ve written some joyful and silly songs to go with the topical, thoughtful and hopeful songs we’ re gathering. Look for the results in the spring on Alligator Records.

Looking forward to September, come see us at Fitzgerald’ s in Berwyn, IL on the first and Higher Ground in Burlington, VT on the eighth. Keep an eye on our website, marciaball.com, for shows wherever you are. If you’ re in Seattle, have a great Vietnamese meal at the Tamarind Tree. Although beach reading season is about over, dig around in your used bookstores for anything by Ross Thomas. If you’ re ready for something more serious, read Philip Caputo’ s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “ Acts of Faith”. Later in the month, look for the release of an album tribute to Fats Domino with his songs done by an amazing roster of really big stars on which we back up Irma Thomas on a great song called, “ I Just Can’ t Get New Orleans Off My Mind.” You know that’ s true.

I’ m finishing this up as we fly home from California. Last night we played at Rancho Nicasio, which is, as I mentioned at the beginning, one of those inspiring combinations of a great place and a great meal and the icing on the cake was...the cake. That is, Lori’ s leftover birthday cake, plus Mike Duke playing on the upright in the bar after hours and Angela singing and Bob finally stacking chairs on the tables. Thank you all and Linda and Charles for the bunkhouse and brunch, the other B & B.

And thank you Fitzgerald’ s, The Ark, Stephen Talkhouse, Tipitina’ s, The Palms, The Triple Door, House of Blues. And thank you WERU, KPLU, KUT, KGSR, WWOZ, KGRS, KBON, KPFT (to be continued...)

Yours long-windedly,



Rest in peace my dear friend Thorny B. Penfield, III


January 23, 2008

Brrrrr! THE SHIVERS HAVE SHAKEN LOOSE A BALL BEARINGS

Brrrrr! Baby, it's cold outside and I don't care where you are. Austin's having Portland's weather. We're leaving on Delbert's Sandy Beaches Cruise this Saturday and it's 50 degrees in San Diego. This calls for a fleecy vest in a tropical print.

Am I whining? Well, maybe just a little and for no good reason. Let me count my blessings. Number one: the new record is finished! Number two: the new record is finished! I know, I already said that but maybe tomorrow I won't wake up at a ridiculous hour thinking about sequencing, cover art, time and money. And it's good. It's got great players, narrative integrity, hopeful lyrics, rocking solos and some special guests. So I go from whining to bragging in one paragraph. We're planning on having this one out in early April, in time for Jazz Fest in New Orleans, of course. We're already booking up some gigs down there and we'll for sure be back in Lafayette Park on Wednesday, April 30 and at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival on April 26. That Baton Rouge Blues Society is a great group. They work really hard to honor the wonderful legacy of the blues legends that came from the area and to encourage the active players living there now. Lil' Ray Neal is going to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis this year and we wish him lots of luck.

Did I say the name of the record yet? It's PEACE, LOVE & BBQ. Three of my favorite things. Some more of my favorite things: producer Stephen Bruton, engineer Chet Himes, my band and all the guest players like Dr. John and his band, Wayne Toups and Terrance Simien.

(Here's a blessing "side-bar": the music community in South Louisiana, especially Cynthia and Terrance Simien have been working for a number of years to get NARAS to add a CAJUN AND ZYDECO category to the Grammies and they have finally succeeded. No more being lumped in with Folk or Blues or Country and, as a result, many deserving nominations for some of the hardest working, best rocking bands in the country. Congratulations to all!)

Back to counting my blessings: I have a grandbaby, almost 5 months old, LINCOLN HENRY BALL. Very cute, of course, cheeky, with big blue eyes. He's got his little fingers wrapped around my heart. Parents, Luke and Shannon Ball, doing a great job. I can't wait to start some serious spoiling.

Also, in family news, Gordon's son, Jeb, and his sweetheart, Jen, got married on January 6. We have been very fortunate in the daughter-in-law department with Shannon, and now Jen. It was a fun wedding, classy in all the right places, with a beautiful bride, many friends and relatives, good food, dancing, embarrassing stories, a few tears and lots of laughs.

Blessing: the holidays are over! I can't help it! My sincerest admiration goes to those who can decorate, cook, shop, wrap, mail, do cards, bake cookies, clean house, have company, smile and get it all done by December 25. On a scale of one to ten, I can hit about a six. Smiling is not one of those.

This year before the holidays, I went to pick up my mother in Louisiana and was in Lafayette the night of the Medicine Show at Grant Street Dancehall. This event was inspired by the tragic death of a beloved musician/doctor named Tommy Comeaux. Tommy played with Beausoleil and other bands in the area and he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. His friends, too many to name and I don't know who all, began to raise money to endow a Chair in Traditional Music at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in his name. I do know that Sonny Landreth and Todd Mouton have been very much at the center of the effort. This year's show featured Sonny, a solo set by Zachary Richard, a reunion of Atchafalaya, a terrific group of women players called The Figs, and a closing set by an all-star band called The Traiteurs. That's "doctor" to us Cajuns. Ten years ago they set out to raise a million dollars and they hit the mark this year. What a night!

Blessing: we get to do what we love to do, play music. We're blessed with health, family, friends, fans and the imminent end of the Bush administration. Now, as the song says, we need "a little more peace, a little more love, and barbecue".

From all of us, sincerely, we hope you have a blessed 2008 and that we see you soon as we make our way on land, air, and sea. If there's a party, that's where we'll be. Peace.




February 17, 2008

LOS DOS MALETAS (TWO SUITCASES)

So picture this intrepid little band cruising down the Mexican coast with Delbert McClinton and friends in tropical wear playing music on the deck and dancing to romantic songs by Raoul Malo, the soul music of James Hunter, funky Mingo Fishtrap, rocking Malford Milligan and the "all of the above" of Teresa James. Gator Girls prancing. It just doesn't get any better than that in January. And then...

Hmmm. Very interesting how many trucks in Maine have snow plow blades attached. It's kind of like horse trailers in Texas. They're out in force today. As we drive south from Camden, Maine the weather is not improving. There's two feet of snow on the ground and it's raining but the rain is threatening to turn into more snow. We've been warned that it gets worse around Portland and Portsmouth. Hmmm. Makes you wonder what a band full of crackers is doing driving around up here in February. To make matters worse, our rent car has a Florida license plate so people are laughing at us as we creep down the road. It's like a "kick me" sign.

The grand prize for thoughtfulness goes to Corey Keller who pulled out his Fargo skills and shoveled our cars out of their parking places this morning.

In spite of my grousing, I have to say it's gorgeous up here. Snow laden firs, half frozen inlets, huge frame houses with glowing windows, enormous barns. We just passed the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, the source of a catalog my backyard boat builders drool over.

We played last night at the Camden Opera House for a great crowd not scared off by forecasts of a blizzard. I had a visit from an old Austin friend, songwriter David Dodson, whose hometown is Camden, and some newer friends like Tom, the boatbuilder/lobsterman who came over from the island where he lives to see us.

Oooooh. Scenery break! Coming into Wiscasset across the water. Looks like a Stephen King movie set.

Here's the irony of this adventure: a week ago we were playing Lundi Gras outdoors in Gretna, Louisiana and a Mardi Gras party on the beach in Hollywood, Florida with Terrance Simien. Sweating up a storm in the sand. On Sunday, Terrance won a Grammy in the brand new Zydeco/Cajun category. In a field where almost all of the nominees are friends of ours, I would have celebrated anyone's win but Terrance and Cynthia Simien were particularly involved in creating this new category so it's especially fitting that they get to take home the little gramophone.

Also a Grammy winner this year – Pinetop Perkins, 94 years young and still rocking. He was there to accept and looked great in his red suit and hat.

Here's Bath. The Chocolate Church has white frosting.

Yesterday we flew into Portland and let our GPS pick a Thai restaurant for us. We wound up at a little Asian market called Vientiane where we took up 6 of the 8 chairs in the room, the meals come in to-go containers, the owner's voice is like music and the food is delicious. She gave us directions when we left and said, "If you get lost, come back and eat some more." I'm thinking we may make another pass at it – or we could go on down to Portsmouth and the Friendly Toast.

Next week we stay in the heavy bags, big suitcases full of woolens for our trip to Prairie Home Companion, Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, Illinois and the Trocadero in Minneapolis. After that, California here we come, smaller suitcases, skinny clothes, layers.

Last night someone asked me for some professional advice for women in the music business. I wasn't anticipating this question in the CD signing line after a gig so, taken aback, I wrote down two things my mother always expects me to do that have served me well– stand up straight and tell the truth.

Speaking of which – our new record comes out in early April and it's named for three of the truest things: Peace, Love & BBQ. We're busy setting up our website for pre-orders so we can personalize and send out CD's right on the release date. We'll let you know when we're ready.

My son and daughter-in-law went to see Sharon Jones the other night. She drew 900 people at Antone's in Austin. Luke and Shannon listen to a lot of music and they're into this new soul stuff so I'm turning them on to the real deal like Mabel John, Ruby Johnson, Ann Peebles and Candy Staton. If you like Amy Winehouse, you'll really dig those women. Of course, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, is at the top of the playlist at our house. Just one listen to "Breakaway" and you'll know where it all came from.

Thanks for keeping live music alive. Imagine the silence. At the movies for instance – you wouldn’ t know whether to laugh or cry or be scared without the music.

Almost to Boston, still raining, no snow. Piece of cake. Speaking of which – Happy Birthday Joe Ely, Lou Ann Barton, Carlyne and Molly.

Peace (and you know the rest.)





March 21, 2008

PEACE, LOVE...

Crazy. We're leaving Portland, Oregon. I'm waiting for my breakfast burrito in the airport. We've been here three days and spent a day in Seattle before that. I haven't eaten any seafood. I will call Gordon in a few minutes and drop a hint about salmon and broccoli for supper when I get home. (He said yes!) So, Mexican food in Portland and salmon in Austin. Crazy.

Portland has been very good to us. We played three nights in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with Betty LaVette and Shemekia Copeland as "Women Of The Blues". The hall is usually occupied by the symphony and it looks and sounds gorgeous. There couldn't be three more dissimilar women to represent the blues and yet the audience seemed to enjoy each one of us and what we had to offer – Betty's cool, soulful singing and great stage presence, Shemekia's fabulous big voice and warm personality and our rocking good time rhythm and blues. Quite the package.

It rained off and on all weekend but that didn't stop us from doing a lot of walking. Every medium sized city could learn something from the downtown here. Austin's trying to promote what's called "infill" which amounts to building tall towers of expensive condos. Problem is they're way behind in providing something for those condo dwellers to do. Portland has several multi-screen movie theaters, major retail department stores and a serious mall, plus inviting outdoor gathering places. One "must do" in Portland is Powell's Book Store, the enormous used book store. It's overwhelming. Fortunately, I was carrying a book when I went in and have a bedside book stack at home so I was somewhat inoculated against buying more. There's also a Whole Foods Market, a park and marina on the riverfront, light rail trains that give the whole area a very European feel, and the kind of verdant greenery that grows where it's cool and damp. That doesn't even touch on the great park and zoo, the rose gardens, the nearby Columbia Gorge and Mount Hood. Portland, also quite the package.

And to top it off, I've never seen friendlier people anywhere. Even the airport security people were nice. When they say "have a nice trip" you believe they mean it. Doug Sahm loved Portland and he had an unerring sense about the coolest places.

Coming up – some interesting events in and around Austin starting with another "women" thing at Texas State University in San Marcos on March 26 with Barbara "You'll Lose A Good Thing" Lynn, the left handed guitar player, singer and songwriter. Following a panel discussion we'll play a gig at Cheatham Street Warehouse. Then on March 30 the band and I are celebrating Nancy Coplin's birthday with a big fundraiser at Antone's to benefit HAAM, the Health Alliance For Austin Musicians with special guests Delbert McClinton and Stephen Bruton and many more. See www.antones.net. Earlier that same day, I'll appear on a show at the new Long Center for the Performing Arts at a tribute to some of the most influential people in Austin music. The honorees include Doug Sahm, Roosevelt "Grey Ghost" Williams, the barrelhouse pianist, Lavada Durst, a pianist and deejay, and Tary Owens, who recorded many of the early central Texas blues men. Whew! And that's a slow week.

Speaking of slow weeks – it'll be good to get back to Austin post-SXSW. Now, I like South By just fine. It brings so much music to town you can't begin to take it in. Every club, café, hair salon, boutique, empty lot and back yard turns into a venue. Bands come from Indonesia, Ireland and Iran. It's real good for businesses and every year somebody gets a big break. If you don't sleep all day, the conference and trade show are very informative and, my favorite part, lots of my old friends in the music business turn up and we get to visit. It's kind of like Mardi Gras in that if you avoid the center of the action, you can go about your life fairly normally or you can just dive in and immerse yourself. Usually we do what we did this year – spend a couple of weekdays hanging out and then blow town. So, the only down side that I can see is that there are about 100,000 people in town for the week who don't know where they're going and they're either walking down the middle of the street or they're driving on the sidewalks. It's hazardous either way. What I miss – and I try not to dwell on the good old days too much – is the Sunday afternoon softball tournament that pitted the booking agents against the club owners and the record companies against the musicians. Lots of venting of steam and some minor injuries but it cleared the air for another year. I don't think these youngsters play softball. Maybe we could bowl.

And speaking of venting steam, March 19 was the 5th anniversary of Bush's quick and nasty little war which was supposed to be over in six weeks and cost a few billion dollars. Five years, four thousand U.S. dead, thirty thousand more injured, uncounted Iraqi casualties, trillions of dollars paid out, much of it unaccounted for. For a lie. I hope I live to see Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld prosecuted. There was a peace demonstration on Saturday in Portland, which I joined, of course.

Before I write a new "Ball Bearings" I always go back and see where I left off in the last one and I'm always amazed at how much has happened between times. There's road stuff and home stuff and band stuff and it seems impossible to catch up. Since I last wrote from fun but frigid New England we've had a great run through California, doing two dates with one of my favorite people and musicians, John Hammond, and one show in Lake Tahoe with another favorite, Roy Rogers (that's chops not chaps). And one evening with Allen Toussaint, which is always a master class in songwriting and piano playing.

So now we're preparing for the release of our new record, "Peace, Love & BBQ". This is always an exciting and scary time. Will people like it? Will it sell? We'll see. As you know and as all musicians talk about all the time, the business is changing. You can buy music on vinyl, a memory stick or the internet. CD's may be passe but...if you're only going to buy one more CD, get this one!

Some folks have asked if I'd put some biographical information about the band members on the web site so people can get to know them. A while back I asked the guys to write short bios for the website and Johnny Medina, our sound technician, was the only one to respond but his is worthy of publication and after I check with him to see if he still wants to tell all, I'll include it next time. Then if the others don't give me something to print, I'll start making stuff up.

So, read any good books lately? My fave from last month is called "Wooden Boats" by Michael Ruhlman, about the Gannon and Benjamin boat yard on Martha's Vineyard. Reading about how they're keeping a precious tradition of craftmanship alive makes me appreciate (or at least gripe less about) the project in our back yard. Fowler and Fowler building Totsy:

Remember the joke about not building a boat in the basement? We may have to cut down a tree to get this thing out of here.

Well, that's all the news that fits and more. Happy first day of spring and I hope that the new season and this coming year bring lots of peace, love and barbecue to you all. Thanks, as ever, for taking this ride with us.





July 12, 2008

A LITTLE TOO LITTLE

And a lot too much.

It seems like when I get something sent out for a Ball Bearings, then I want to keep on writing but there's nothing left to say. But if I wait a while, then too much has happened and I can't figure out how to catch up. As Bruton would say, that sounds like a luxury problem. No sweat.

Speaking of sweating...it's summer all over this part of the world. Even Marin County, the luxury problem capital, is topping 100 degrees and those people live out there because they don't like to sweat. We have the weekend off (another l.p.) and yesterday Gordon and Janice and I played a round at our home golf course, Butler Pitch and Putt which we call Pitch and Bitch, a par three, nine hole course between Taco Bell and the railroad tracks. Even in the shade of the old pecan trees it was a scorcher. I had my first snoball of the year to cool off. This morning Gordon and I went to the Farmer's Market and elbowed our way to the home-grown tomatoes and Stonewall peaches. Then I met Luke and Shannon and Grandbaby Linc for tacos. Linc is pushing one year, crawling, eating tacos and saying "uh oh". What a day!

But... what I'm supposed to do here is talk about the band and touring and all so here goes. Last weekend we made our annual July 4 stop at Fitzgerald's American Music Festival in Berwyn, suburb of Chicago, Illinois. It's the best big festival in a small space that there is. This year we saw the Holmes Brothers, The Lee Boys, Paul Sanchez and Susan Cowsill, Dave Alvin, Rosie Flores, John Boutte, Bonarama, Ian McLagan, John D. Graham, Paul Thorn. And that's just what we saw. We were only there for two of the four days of the festival. What a weekend it is even if we can't get Cubs tickets any more. Check them out at www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.

And... from there we went to Washington, D.C. for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and there we played with Guy Clark and I did a food demo showing a group of people how to make what I call emergency gumbo so fast I had it all together in 15 minutes and didn't know what to do with the rest of my hour. Well, actually I made shrimp remoulade, too, and talked about etouffe and jambalaya and Mama's Cooking and the advantages of marrying a man who cooks. Upon finishing this little missive, I'll ask the Webgator to post the recipes and some instructions as I promised my audience I would.

The Smithsonian Festival featured Texas and Bhutan and NASA. My favorite cross-cultural moment came at the after party at the hotel. The most amazing mariachi band I have ever seen was playing. They're called Mariachi Los Arrieros – 15 pieces, violins, all sizes of stringed instruments, two trumpets and an array of vocalists who were all opera (or Roy Orbison which is just as good) quality. They're from El Paso. The dance floor was full and right in the middle were one of the cowgirl dancers and one of the Bhutanese guys in his robes cutting a rug. We drank Texas wine (Light Catcher), talked rocket science (no joke), danced. We almost forgot we had a 4:15 AM ride to the airport the next morning.

Well, it's embarrassing to say that I had to go all the way back to March to find the last time I've written anything here. I must have had a heck of a birthday party. Since then, we've played over 50 gigs, released a new record, played the New Orleans Jazz Festival and all of its attendant great gigs, been to the Northeast (twice), the Midwest (three times), Colorado (twice), San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Orange, Texas and even played in Austin a couple of times. We have another Austin date coming right up on July 25 at Antone's.

One outstandingly fun thing we did in June was to play the T-Bone Walker Blues Festival in Linden, Texas. Musicians, young and old, from all over the Ark-La-Tex area came together at a beautifully restored hall called Music City Texas Theater for a weekend of great music, food and company. T-Bone's daughter Bernita was there. Delbert McClinton sang with Stephen Bruton, Anson Funderburgh played with Gary Nicholson. Dorothy "Miss Blues" Ellis, The Bluebirds from Shreveport, youngsters The Kesler Brothers and Kayla Reeves and many more artists played. You can check this out, too, at www.tbonewalkerbluesfestival.com. They're doing a very good thing keeping a wonderful musical legacy alive. As are the people of Texas City, Texas where we played the Charles Brown "Days of Remembrance" last November. We feel really fortunate to be a part of these events.

Also in June, we played at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota at a "Thank You" party for the medical staff who went down to the Gulf Coast, some of them several times, to take care of people after Hurricane Katrina. We couldn't say thank you enough. The very next week we played at the Sedgewick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas under a deluge with tornado warnings in the area. We had a captive audience and I don't mean the giraffes. It was raining so hard that the people couldn't leave, a pond formed between the pavilion we were in and the tent to our left and ducks came and swam there while we played. We hope that the people of Iowa, Kansas, Illinois and Missouri and wherever the rains have caused flooding are receiving the same generous outpouring of aid from individuals, churches and other groups including the incredible Habitat for Humanity that have been helping the Gulf Coast through its time of troubles. It seems to come down to people helping people.

Coming up, a busy August and a couple of special dates for me. On August 24, I'll be joining the Voices of the Wetlands, a group founded by Tab Benoit and Cyril Neville, to play the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Other special guests include Irma Thomas and Marva Wright. The idea is to bring the need to restore America's wetlands and stop the erosion to the attention of the powers all the way to the top. And because it's not a partisan issue but a national problem, we're also playing the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Maybe through music we can get some action.

And so, it's still my weekend off and it's only Saturday evening. My brother and I are going to Antone's to see Carolyn Wonderland (check her out, too, at www.carolynwonderland.com) and Doyle Bramhall II (or Little Dawl as they say around here). A night on the town – what a luxury. I hope you're all staying cool as you can and not feeling the pinch of high gas prices and the worries that go along with that too much. Maybe the next election will bring a positive change to our country and we can unite to make a better world as Earl King says. He also says sing, sing, sing and I say drink plenty of water, take little naps, stay out of the noonday sun and if you don't have it yet, go get Peace, Love & BBQ. It could be the soundtrack of your summer and we could spend a couple more weeks on the Billboard Blues charts. That would be cool. Peace.





September 3, 2008

IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ ABOUT POLITICS, STOP HERE...

So I'm walking through the Minneapolis Airport with my OBAMA peace button that Linda gave me pinned over my heart, making as much eye contact as I can. People are veering away. The Republican National Convention is in town and whenever I told any of my friends I was playing for it, they said, to a person, "No you're not!"



Yes, I did. I played with Voices of the Wetlands Monday night. That's Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, George Porter, Jr., Johnny Vidacovich, Waylon Thibodeaux, Johnny Sansone, Anders Osborn and, that night, special guests Marva Wright, Henry Butler, Amanda Shaw and me. The show began with Wild Tchoupitoulas Indians, Soul Rebels Brass, Big Sam from Funky Nation, Donald Harrison, Leo Nocentelli, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, James Andrews, Kirk Joseph, and an amazing young rhythm section.

Last week when we played for the Dems in Denver there was also Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint and Randy Newman. There is a very important point to all of this.

Louisiana's wetlands, the buffer that protects the oil industry and the seafood industry and the cultural and economic centers of Lafayette and New Orleans, are shrinking at the rate of 15 square miles a year. The levees of the Mississippi River also pour all of the silt that should be released into the coastal marshland straight into the Gulf of Mexico creating large "dead" areas where there's not enough oxygen to sustain marine life. This is not an irreversible situation. It is a condition created by bad decisions that we have the means to correct. Voices of the Wetlands is dedicated to bringing attention to this issue. Tab Benoit, sounding like a Southern politician or a preacher, either one of which he could be if he wasn't such a tear-it-up musician, has dedicated a large part of his career to trying to influence people to save his, no our, home. When you hear him, in the movie "Hurricane on the Bayou" talk about taking someone to see where he used to play baseball, but now you have to go in a boat, you really get the picture. It's not a Louisiana problem, either. It's an American problem and America could fix it.

I'm going to vote for the candidate who I think will address this and the need for health insurance for children and all Americans; who thinks it's time to end our occupation of Iraq; who will appoint the best, most qualified, people he can find for the critical agencies like Justice, Health, Environment, not just cronies; who won't condone or practice torture; who could possibly close the Guantanamo Bay prison and give the inmates due process of law; who believes that education creates a safer world than incarceration; who believes in science and evolution; who believes that long term energy policy does not hinge on short term drilling in sensitive environmental areas; who tries, who just tries, to make life better for all Americans, not just the filthy rich. I believe that this candidate is Barack Obama.

If you've come this far, I dare say you're one of us. That is: a voter, a reader, a watcher of CSpan rather than Fox, maybe spiritual but not necessarily religious, discouraged but hopeful.

It is enormously important to express our opinions now, not just to those who agree with us but to those who may be on the fence. I doubt we can change people's made-up minds but we may be able to influence the undecided and, most important of all, we need to vote and to encourage others to vote. We can't afford another four years of this dumbed-down, willfully self-destructive spiral. All Americans deserve better.

Two lines from Yeats' poem, The Second Coming: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity". Let's don't let that be us.

Peace,


P.S.: Next time I'll write about music and food, but I can't promise that politics won't slip in there. We're off to Norway tomorrow. There should be some good stories from the festival called "Blues in Hell".


September 20, 2008

IF YOU'RE STILL WITH ME

Hey, let's talk about music. I've enjoyed some of the best lately, flitting around, playing festivals like Hot August Blues with John Hyatt and JJ Grey & Mofro. That was the night Don and I celebrated our 27th anniversary of working together, sitting on top of a big bass cabinet, drinking wine and getting maudlin (well, I was anyway), listening to John Hyatt's great songs and watching his drummer, one of my favorites, Kenneth Blevins.

We played the Rockin' the River Cruise the night before in New York City with mes amies, Beausoleil. It was a beautiful night following a thunderstorm so there was an amazing sunset. Then after dark we circled the Statue of Liberty up close. She makes you want to be a better person and a better American, thinking what she represented to generations of people who sought refuge and made homes here. Something to live up to. Plus there's a very interesting art installation of waterfalls under bridges and off the sides of piers along the river and fabulous views of the NYC skyline.

While we were in New York, I taped a Sirius Radio show for which I got to pick the music and talk about the artists. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time. As it turns out, it's not so easy when you're not "gifted with gab" but I'm so filled with love for that music that I carried on. I played some of my favorites - the early Gulf Coast hits that pre-dated much of soul and Motown music. They call some of this "Swamp Pop" now, but growing up and dancing to "Mathilda" by Cookie and the Cupcakes and "You'll Lose A Good Thing" by Barbara Lynn was how I came to love music, especially that 6/8 stuff with the good solid back beat and a fine sounding tenor saxophone. I also played Charles Brown, Katie Webster, Carol Fran and Clarence Hollimon and more of my mentors from the cradle of American music. I have to thank Matt at Sirius for walking me through my first true DJ experience.

Same weekend, next day in Thornton, New Hampshire we played with Janiva Magness and Watermelon Slim at the White Mountain Blues Festival and brought home some of the best maple syrup I've ever tasted. And only a few days later we met up with Janiva again at the Edmonton Blues Festival in Alberta, Canada. It's always a good kind of shock to pop out of a Texas August and into Canada and Colorado and Norway. We dusted off our boots and long pants and stayed as far north as we could for about three weeks.
That itinerary took us to Brownfield, Maine where we discovered the limitations of Global Positioning if you're in a place where the cell phones don't run. We met some nice people at the end of a gravel road. We're actually lucky we didn't get shot. When we finally arrived at the Stone Mountain Art Center, the usual hospitality – which is unusual in its warmth and grace – was all in place. Carol Noonan, who was a label-mate of mine on Rounder, has created the best venue possible for both the artists and the audience. The food is great, the pool table is level, the LP's are classics, the crowd is responsive. They have to run us off at the end of the night.

Same weekend, next day in Charleston, Rhode Island we returned to our Rhythm and Roots. Always a great festival, I think this year was tops. Chuck and Debbie Wentworth put it all together (while juggling twin grandsons) with a concert stage, a dance pavilion and a workshop tent that go constantly, presenting the best interesting roots music they can find. This year's host band was the Pine Leaf Boys, a "legacy" band featuring young men with impeccable Cajun music credentials. They sound traditional but they write and are adding to what will be Cajun classics to future generations. One of the first younger bands that I noticed with this kind of creative energy was Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. While he was still a teenager, Steve played with Dewey Balfa, a groundbreaking Cajun musician. Now, working with David Greeley and Sam Broussard, Braz Huval and Kevin Dugas, the Mamou Playboys carry traditional music forward and write beautiful new songs. It's exciting to watch. And so much more...Keb Mo', Dan Hicks, Nathan and the Cha Cha's, The Waybacks, and that was just on our day. There are three big days of music and eating and dancing. As for our show – we played our set, and it was a good one, I'd say, and then...and then...Johnny Nicholas of Westerly, RI and Fredericksburg, TX engineered a grand finale incorporating Steve Riley and David Greeley on accordion and fiddle, Danny Levin on fiddle, Kaz on tenor, Al Gomez on trumpet, Tommy Mahford on bari sax, my band, his band, me and Himself. It was so cool. "Louisiana, 1927" sounded like there was an orchestra on stage. Old Johnny made us all look like geniuses. We grabbed the good press and headed home to wait for Hurricane Ike.

The last month has been a rollercoaster ride for our friends along the Gulf Coast. South Louisiana evacuated for Gustav and then barely got home when Ike rolled in. The two storms left behind enormous destruction, much of it in places that have not been so badly hit in my lifetime, like Orange and Bridge City, Texas. Hurricane Rita in 2005 brought wind but Ike brought water. The coastal towns like Gilchrist and Crystal Beach are pretty much wiped out. I stand in my house and wonder – even if I had three days and a pick-up truck it would be hard to figure out what to take. When I ask people what they would do, their answer is the same as mine – family pictures and musical instruments (and children, old people and pets, of course). But bye-bye big old piano. As I write, I'm thinking about Tab Benoit and Rueben Williams and all of the Voices of the Wetlands family who were touring to raise awareness of the need to restore our coastal wetlands and stop the loss of 15 square miles a year of barrier coastline. They couldn't get home before Hurricane Gustav and didn't know what they'd find when they got home. Apparently there were levee breaches and a lot of wind in Houma and Plaquemines Parish. Just as Tab predicted, the damage is much worse than it needs to be. His is an important message and he's brave enough to interrupt a set of his great boogie music to talk about the situation. He's my HERO in this edition of Ball Bearings.

Inspired by this line of thinking about saving pictures, when I hauled my mother out of Gustav's path, I gathered up all the old family photos I could find and had them scanned onto a disc. Besides wallowing in some memories, I had a couple of good laughs. For instance, apparently there's a lesson I've never learned and it's this: if you give yourself a bad haircut with manicure scissors, no amount of brushing, patting, tucking or additional cutting will make it better.

Confessions of an old Catholic school girl and you can run the numbers. We're throwing a big birthday party next spring for ME! and a couple of worthy charities so there will be no age-related secrets left in my life, if there ever were any.

More about that next time. Meanwhile, I hope you weather the various storms of our modern world as well as possible. And remember, we know you have a choice when you vote, so vote responsibly and elect the person you would hire to run your business or be your boss. Go for the smart one. And keep on the sunny side. We wish you well.





November 9, 2008

AH, THE GLAMOUR...

Traveling to the Continent, walking miles in London, playing (kind of on the edge of) the huge O2 Arena with a bunch of New Orleans Jazz Festival regulars, rushing to catch a plane in speeding taxies on wet London streets like James Bond. Being in the Swiss Bernese Oberlander for the first big snow of the season, eating real fondue and wild game with good friends, making new friends. And then, ah yes, spending all night in Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. on a trip home that has stretched to 33 hours. That's the part that separates the pros from their posturepedics. How well can you sleep on those little divided up plastic airport row seats? I will not lay on the floor of an airport. To sweeten the pot, we are stranded with a plane load of people bound for Austin including about a dozen Germans coming in for Wurstfest in New Braunfels who have been drinking beer in the bar and are liable to burst into song at any time. As I begin to write this we are one half hour from home and 12 hours behind schedule. I can almost taste the tacos.

It really was a great trip. I loved London – much more than I thought I would. We got there at mid-day and Corey and Andrew and I chose to eat lunch (Thai), drink coffee and start walking. We were staying on the East End at Canary Wharf, picturesque in its own right and adjacent to a new shopping area and a Tube station where we caught the train to the London Bridge Station. From there we walked along the Thames, passed the Tate Modern Museum (I went in the next day) and the Eye and the Millennium Bridge, crossed the river at Big Ben and Parliament, stopped at a great pub and had a pint (half for me), continued to Buckingham Palace, crossed Green Park and there we parted ways. The boys went back to the hotel to catch up with Don and Thad and Johnny for the night shift and I walked over to Piccadilly Circus for the bright lights and a stop in at Fortnum and Mason's which I remembered from my first trip to London with Gordon. Finally I gave it up and took the Tube back to the hotel. When I hit the room, I went down for 10 solid hours – no jet lash for me. I woke up on London time.

The gigs there were also great. Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Buckwheat Zydeco, Kermit Ruffins, John Mooney, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Rebirth Brass Band – it was a presentation of the Jazz Fest with music, Mardi Gras Indians, beads and food on Friday and Saturday and then a New Orleans Saints football game on Sunday. During the rest of our stay in London, I went to Chelsea, Portobello Road, into the Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery where I got a little fixated on guess what? Shoes. Here are these elaborate paintings of gothic and Elizabethan aristocracy in all their finery and what do I notice? That, actually, shoes haven't changed all that much in four or five hundred years and theirs were very cool. What a thing to remember about three days in London!

We narrowly missed missing our plane to Zurich but we were saved by Randy, the expediter, who showed off his professional chops at 5 AM, while I stood voiceless from laryngitis and catatonic from lack of sleep. He rounded up cabs, loaned us pounds, crammed us and all our gear into the cars and waved us goodbye. So now we know what he does in real life. Randy, we can't thank you enough.

So, having soaked up so much culture in Great Britain, we headed off for four days in Switzerland with Aschi and Nilly Maurer, playing gigs booked by their son Robbi. The last time I was there was to play at Aschi's legendary Frutigen Singer-Songwriter Festival in the early '90's. He has the knack of finding artists of quality who are on their way up and he books them right before they get so big he can't afford them any more. The year we played he had Tim O'Brien, the Mavericks with Raul Malo, Joe Ely, Rosie Flores, Tish Hinojosa, Katy Moffatt and Sarah Campbell. He has brought years of great country and western and folk and roots music to Switzerland where there is a huge audience for it. I loved the whole trip and, of course, being the cultural maven that I am, I gathered some of the best that the country has to offer. Chocolate, that is. And we flew (and flew and flew) home.

Took a nap and went to play Halloween at Gruene (it rhymes if you've ever been there). It turned out to be a very fun night and a good crowd which I was a little worried about since we were up against Wurstfest and Halloween parties. Don and I costumed up although it was not all that easy to tell. Don wore a wig and a cowboy hat and the ugliest yellow pants and polyester cowboy shirt you've ever seen. I think he was a Firedog – progressive country circa 1971. I was a gypsy which means I accessorized slightly more trashy than a typical gig outfit and put a scarf around my head. The other guys came as musicians with severe jet lag. Trick or treat.

Halloween report on my mother's house in Vinton, LA: The town moved Halloween to Saturday night because it conflicted with the Homecoming football game on Friday so the numbers were off. She had roughly 250 trick-or-treaters, down from her usual 400 plus. I bet she's got a lot of Tootsie Rolls left over.

Well, the rest of November looms gloriously empty. I'm going visit The Mom (and eat Tootsie Rolls), then we're going to Mexico for Thanksgiving. Because I can't just take a vacation, and because we were so kindly offered this opportunity, we're going to play a gig in San Miguel de Allende as part of the XIV Festival Internacional de Jazz y Blues, San Miguel de Allende. If you'd like to know more about this wonderful event and place, you can go to www.sanmigueljazz.com. There's an incredible line-up and I'm very excited to be included. You could check out two of the other performers, Iraida Noriega, a jazz singer who started out singing with her father, pianist/vocalist Freddy Noriega, and Betsy Pecanins who is a singer-songwriter. Plus, two incredible Cubans, pianist Gabriel Hernandez and drummer Francisco Mela. And much more. So much for taking a break from music. I can't wait to hear these people in person.

My other big excitement (beside the news that my grandson, Linc, is walking) is that the plans for my (gawd, I want to mumble this) 60th birthday celebration are coming together nicely. We will, in a very short time, have an official notification of how to get tickets and some tourist guide type information about Austin so that our friends can come in and spend Valentine's weekend 2009 with us and Angela Strehli, Maria Muldaur, Tracy Nelson, Steve Riley, Geno Delafose and some others. Please watch this space and we'll fill in the details soon (or dreckly, as we say in Texas).

Having written about the great acts we'll be playing with in San Miguel, I'm moved to go sit at the piano and try to make some progress. We hope you are having a lovely Indian Summer like we're enjoying in Austin right now. The holiday season is upon us and as the year moves swiftly from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas and Hannukah and Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras, I want to mention the biggest holiday of the new year. Inauguration Day!!! Oh boy, Obama! Let the celebration begin! Peace.




March 4, 2009

IF FEBRUARY WERE ANY LONGER...

It would have to be two months this year. And we didn't even go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We've just been celebrating it all month everywhere we go.

Started February 20:

I'm sitting here in the glow of last weekend – my Birthday Bash and the Best Valentine's Ever – writing thank you notes and thinking about all of our friends from all over. Many of them are friends with each other now, exactly as I planned. I know I'm doing this kind of backwards but I want to mention the Sunday afternoon gig first – the one where Delbert came and brought Rob and Kevin. The Mingo Fishtrap horns played and Theresa James, Bill Campbell, Red Young and Corey. What was conceived as Delbert popping in for a few songs at Pianorama turned out to be a full blown and great Delbert McClinton set and it was supported by a whole bunch of Sandy Beaches Cruisers in the audience. The best audience ever, the Cruisers were the underlying inspiration for the whole weekend – my birthday land cruise.

The Pianorama itself was very exciting with two special out of town guests, Kevin McKendree and Bob Seeley. Bob and his wife drove down from Michigan for the weekend. He's the best boogie-woogie piano player in America (you can look it up) and you can't tell from looking at him or hearing him but he's 80 years old. Boy, did those guys raise the bar. I only wish our founding member, Floyd Domino, had been there. He would have loved it but he was on the road. We also had Chip Dolan and Theresa James join us along with regulars Nick Connolly, Riley Osbourn and Johnny Nicholas. My next piano dream is to get some of my New Orleans buddies like Joe Krown and Tom McDermott to come over for a showdown.

Speaking of dreams – this whole Birthday Bash weekend started a year ago with Nancy Coplin's 60th, a fundraiser for Health Alliance For Austin Musicians. She raised $35,000 at a gig with a bunch of Austin bands. I said I wanted to do the same thing on my birthday and make even more money and she had to help so we sat out on Yvonne's porch with Margie and Lisa and talked about who we'd have and what we'd do if we could do anything we wanted. From that night, through Nancy's getting underwriting from Dell and Enfatico, Susan Antone saying we could have the club, Antone's, for the whole weekend, Bev Shaw agreeing to run the auction, and Deb Fleming doing an amazing job of keeping all the balls in the air with tickets, volunteers and logistics, our little dream came true.

My band, Don, Corey, Andrew and Thad, set about learning songs for Maria Muldaur, Tracy Nelson, Angela Strehli, Lou Ann Barton, Lavelle White and some new songs for us all to sing together. Thad wrote a bunch of horn charts. Sarah Brown, Derek O'Brien, Riley Osbourn, horn guys Kaz, Raoul and Warren all came to play. People pitched in at every position - Flowers by Design, Ruby's Barbecue, Party Penguin, Bob Zink, Austin Party Central, Susan Slattery, Central Market, Thistle – all gave us stuff we needed. Mary Frances at Whole Foods catered beautifully. My domino girls made dozens of brownies and piles of paper heart decorations, Gordon made gumbo, many people volunteered at all positions, most notable my "sisters Pousson", Margie, Yvonne and Nancy who did whatever I needed from blowing up balloons to manning the doors.

People from all over donated incredible items for our auction – face jugs and photographs, vacation cabins and artwork, books and CD's and jewelry, meals and guitars and gigs. The auction alone raised $25,000.

And there's more. So far I've only described Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The weekend started with a big old voodoo Friday the 13th party featuring Geno Delafose, Steve Riley and Sonny Landreth. People were beside themselves seeing all three of these bands in one place on one night. I stood outside and watched the whole room bouncing in time to the music.

And then on Sunday night, the Sunset Valley Boys, Gordon's band, played and we danced and sang country and wrapped it up with their good music.

I'd like to mention personally every single person who donated or volunteered or bought a plane ticket or an admission ticket, everyone who tolerated the overcrowded room, a result of my spatial malfunction and overenthusiastic seating chart. In other words, I thought the room could hold more people than it did. Even so, people cheerfully shared and danced and visited and enjoyed three nights and a day of very special music. It was exactly what I had hoped for – a gathering of friends from all over who mixed it up a bit and hopefully will see each other again – in Austin or on the Sandy Beaches Cruise or at one of our gigs wherever you are.

So we passed a good time and in the process we, that's you and us, raised over $100,000 for Health Alliance For Austin Musicians and Sweet Home New Orleans and for that, I really want to thank you all. You're the best!

Continued February 26:

Well, since I'm going backwards anyway and this looks like it's growing into a full-fledged Ball Bearing, I might as well talk about the Grammies. What a trip!

First of all, Irma Thomas saved my neck by reminding me that the pre-telecast awards presentations began at one in the afternoon so I had to change my flight from Salt Lake City to get there in time for the show. I hand-carried The Dress with me on the plane just in case there was a rare loss of luggage or even rarer soaking with seafood sludge in the cargo bay. It has happened! Fortunately, The Dress and I and Gordon all arrived as scheduled and they let us check into the hotel without the typical "three o'clock check-in" discussion. So far, so good. We hooked up with Page and Agnes, Irma Thomas and Emile, David Egan, Todd Mouton, Scott Billington and the rest of their party and shuttled off to the Staples Center where we sat through the awarding of 62 Grammies for everything you can imagine. I got nervous at about number 61 and then it was over, Dr. John had our little gramophone – or would have if he had been there at all. Then only 37 more awards and that part was over.

So we now shuffled off to the big arena where about a thousand people milled around in the concourse eating nachos and hot dogs in their fancy dress ball clothes. I bummed some popcorn from George Carlin's daughter, Kelly, who earlier had picked up her dad's Grammy. We did some serious people watching and noticed that "formal dress" doesn't mean what it used to. In fact, apparently "dress" doesn't mean what it used to. There were some serious outfits though.

For the broadcast portion – the part where U2, Stevie Wonder, Lil Wayne, Paul McCartney, Coldplay, Alison Krause and Robert Plant, Radiohead, B.B. King and on and on played on and on, we sat in not bad seats on the main floor next to Bob Ludwig, the owner of Gateway Mastering Studio who had about 25 different nominations for projects he had worked on. Not bad for a little business up in Portland, Maine. We were in the nominee ghetto with Solomon Burke and Kathy Mattea. More great people watching. On every commercial break, it looked like half the audience stood up, milled about and took a different seat. I personally thought the audience was dead. The biggest acts in the business (or, as we say, the greatest show ever gave) would finish a song and there'd be some clapping and then nothing. These performers used to solid screams would appear a little confused and then just wander off the stage. It must have looked better on TV.

Then there was an after-party – with food! Real food! We reconnected with some of our bunch and finally, after I got tired of standing up straight to best show off The Dress, we called it a night. Such a night!

So back to real life – the aftermath of the Birthday Bash in which Bev hunts down the winners of the unclaimed silent auction items, Deb harasses PayPal until they turn loose of our ticket money, Margie goes home to an ice storm in Arkansas, Nancy goes back to booking music at the airport for SXSW, and the band and I go on the road.

Which brings us to Falls Church, Virginia, and while visiting tonight with our friend Bill Wax of Bluesville satellite radio fame, I realized that he and I have something in common besides the fact that we're both going to the Blues Music Awards in Memphis this May. Neither of us can believe our luck – that we get to do something we love so much, meet the people who have been our guiding lights and inspirations, share the music we love.

Speaking of love, thank you all again and much love for all the cards and good wishes and Chocolate I've been getting. Going public with a birthday has its benefits. Just having a birthday at all is one up side. To all my friends who have so much to give and who give it generously, thank you. To those who are struggling with health and money and job and family problems, we're thinking of you and wish you well. To writers and singers and players of music, thank you for everlasting inspiration and hope. To teachers and nurses and counselors and librarians and doctors and the National Guard and volunteers of all kinds, thank you. You are true heroes and the winners in my awards show.

You would think that in the thirty-six hours we spent snowbound in Newark, New Jersey, I would have finished this but, no. But that's another story.

Look out West Coast – here we come!

Peace, love and you know...


The Webgator sez "Thanks and a tip of the ol' chapeau to Jim Friscia for the Bash photos".

May 24 2009

REPORT FROM THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ FEST...

In which we eat and hear some music and eat and talk to some friends and eat and look at crafts. I’ m ashamed to say that I can remember almost everyone I visited with and everything I ate at Jazz Fest and elsewhere but it was like musical tapas as far as the bands were concerned. With that great a line-up, the main complaint heard was that the choices between acts and stages was too difficult. So I wandered around and heard bits of Sharon Jones and the Subdudes and Dr. Michael White and Sonny Landreth and Chubby Carrier and Steve Riley and some of the Meters. We even managed to get within earshot of Dave Matthews. In fact, on Friday when we played right before Bonnie Raitt and Sugarland, I think the crowd at the Acura stage might have been bigger than his. Bonnie did a great show, very in control and in very good voice. She’ s always a treat to watch perform. My other favorite, of course, is always Irma and she was excellent as ever. I missed Solomon Burke (boo hoo) and Etta James. I can’ t believe that and I hear she was in good form.

And I ate! Fried oysters every day, once on the spinach salad, once on the po-boy, once from Verti Mart in the French Quarter on a bun with fried shrimp. Gawd, I was bad!! Crawfish Monica, a snowball. And the best of all, crawfish bisque (my favorite dish) at Jimmy and Joan Anselmo’ s house, a very exclusive invitation that I hope is going to be an annual event. Are you hungry yet? Are you mad yet? Is that my doctor on the phone? I figured if I was walking around for several hours a day, I could eat (and eat). I got home and went on straight vegetables for a few days.

The weekend began with a Jazz Fest Shabbat (only in New Orleans), a lovely service in the beautiful Touro Synagogue on St. Charles. There was a brass band and a great conductor supporting the Cantor and we played what we usually play. Unusual setting but very inspiring and fun. I was gifted with the most amazing white tail coat embellished with glitter and sequins and painted alligators and music notes and pianos and Shalom (peace, y’ all). Oh, and that day, I sat in with Roy Rogers (Chops not Chaps) in the Blues Tent at the Jazz Fest. He did a very hot set, as always. Then on Saturday night, we tried the new Howlin’ Wolf location in Mandeville on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. I was betting on my crowd wanting an earlier show outside of the City and close to where many of “our people” live now. I didn’ t exactly win the bet but it’ s a good club and I’ m hoping we can go back and play there again.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were all about the piano. WWOZ’ s Piano Night at House of Blues was significantly different for me because of the death of Eddie Bo, who was the glue that held that show together for so many years. He would come out late in the night, bring other players and headliners like Dr. John and Allen Toussaint together to play four-, six- and eight-handed on the two grand pianos backed by a great band including the Fats’ legendary sax player, Herb Hardesty. Herb was there and played great as always and it’ s an honor for me just to be on the stage with him. But I do miss Eddie Bo, his bright smile, his warm heart and irresistible rhythm.

Tuesday, there was a tribute to Eddie at the new Rock ‘ n’ Bowl. It was a fun line-up of acoustic piano players like Joe Krown, Papa John Gros, Tom Worrell, Marc Adams, Cynthia Chen and Bob Andrews. You can’ t believe how deep in piano players New Orleans is. The evening was capped off by a kind of “stealth set” which Dr. John played with his band: Herman Ernest, David Barrard and John Fohl. They played an hour set for a crowd of about 300 people who couldn’ t believe their luck at getting to see and hear Mac in such an intimate setting. Also in attendance were Dr. Bekken of Trondheim, Norway and Mitch Woods.

Wednesday was Lafayette Park downtown: standing room only, Marva Wright on the bill, lots of friends, David Dopsie, Jr. and some New Orleans Saints Cheerleaders closing the show with us. Then I ran to the hotel, changed clothes and went to play Snug Harbor with Joe Krown and Tom McDermott, something of an annual tradition for us now. Those two nights of solo piano are the scariest things I ever do (except maybe for backing Irma at the Blues Awards a couple of times); so exposed, so lonesome. Give me back my band! Also, that was the day the “Ladies Who Lunch” went to Bayona. Mmmmm, good. Did I have oysters? I can’ t remember. Probably, and excellent company.

Thursday is like locals day at the Fairgrounds, when you can walk up to any food booth and any stage and get all you want of food and music with much smaller crowds. Here’ s Deb and I with Linda and David Greeley of the Mamou Playboys.

Then Friday, our above mentioned day at the Festival playing before Bonnie Raitt and Sugarland. Those women have some beautiful voices. Did I mention that the weather was perfect the whole time? That’ s the most Jazz Festing I think I’ ve ever done in one year and I think I avoided any permanent damage to wardrobe, figure, eardrums. We missed Saturday and Sunday because we went to play the Kenneth Threadgill Concert Series in Greenville, Texas, which was a very nice event and a lot of fun in spite of the fact that we and the super cell thunderstorm arrived in town at exactly the same time.

Jazz Fest is like my Christmas and Birthday and Mardi Gras all rolled up in one big package. And one more note about food (of course). Oh Ben, you did it again. My friend Ben, journalist, liner note and Ernie K-Doe biography author, record producer and drummer, is more than anything, my food guru. So when I called him and asked where I should eat lunch since the line at Willie Mae’ s Scotch House was too inflated by festival crowds, he recommended Two Sisters on Derbigny — not the famous Court of... - this one is just Two Sisters and can those ladies cook!

And on and on!

Before I finish up here I need to mention the other big event of the spring season — the Blues Awards in Memphis and the induction of artists, recordings, books and other important figures into the Blues Hall of Fame. This year they honored Son Seals, Bob Porter, the book “I Hear You Knockin’ ” by Jeff Hannusch, the song “Sitting On Top Of The World”, Taj Mahal and more. It was my great pleasure to be the one who got to talk about Clifford Antone and Irma Thomas as they were inducted. Of course, I woke up the next morning thinking of so much more that I should have said. They both have been so important to me and to the music community for their lifelong contributions. That week in Memphis is an amazing gathering and fans of the blues everywhere should join the Blues Foundation so they can participate. And, woohoo! I was presented with the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Award. Irma won for Soul Blues Album. Janiva Magness won Contemporary Female Blues Vocalist and KoKo Taylor won Traditional Female Blues Vocalist. We played at the awards show, a couple of songs of our own plus we backed Elvin Bishop and Irma with Johnny Sansone joining us on harmonica. A really fun night, always. At the Hall of Fame banquet, Irma, Fiona Boyes and I all got the turquoise and black memo.

I promised the people in Omaha, NE last night that I would write about them and they could look for that today (or real soon) on our marciaball.com website so I’ m going to say right here and now that that was a great audience and a really fun night at Murphy’ s. Some of those folks got there while we were still doing our sound check and stayed until the last bleary (or beery) note was played. Thanks for all of that and thanks to the Omaha Blues Society and their All Star band who opened for us. We missed seeing Joe and Mary Cabral last night but they were off celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They’ re the best looking married couple of any age but 50 years! You could knock me over with a feather. Congratulations y mucho mas anõs. Lots of love, too.

Well, they’ re boarding our plane and it’ s always a challenge to see how Don and Andrew and Thad manage to sneak their instruments aboard these little regional jets so I’ m going to go watch the action. Have a safe and happy summer. Stay cool, use sunscreen and mosquito repellant. Please join me in wishing our daughter, Brandy, good luck in her triathlon this weekend and congratulate Gordon and Jeb on getting the boat on the trailer and soon, into the water (and out of my back yard). Here she is, still on her cradle.

We played tonight, a lovely night, right on the beach in Virginia Beach. It was so nice out and we shared the show with John Mooney which is always a pleasure and to cap off the evening and to close this missive as I opened it, because there’ s always room for more writing about food — I went with Page and Agnes and Ruth and DJ to Bob and Jan Glover’ s son Chris’ s restaurant Pacifica. Are you still with me? Just believe it when I say that eating at midnight is not normally my thing but I would set the alarm for more of those scallops and the goat cheese and beets. Top of the line tapas with a Chesapeake twist. Yum and thank you very much.

And the end and good night and sleep tight. Got another plane to catch.

Peace and love,


June 29, 2009

ZOOM GOES THE TIME...

As usual, I started writing, stopped, started and stopped. It’ s been two weeks since I began talking about “last weekend”. Well, here it is anyway, as written:

We just had such a fun time in Colorado last weekend, I need to write this stuff down before it gets away.

First of all, we played at KBCO radio in Boulder as guests on their Studio C show. Everyone in the area gets excited if you say you’ ve done that and judging by the pictures in their offices, nobody ever turns down the invitation. Major artists squeeze into the room and do a quick interview and a couple of songs. Then at the end of the year, they use the performances for a very popular compilation album that raises money for the station. We do it here in Austin, too, at KGSR and KUT. Great idea, good cause and we’ re proud to be involved. I hope our cut makes the cut this year.

Before we even left Austin, we received some fun invitations that all proved to be even better than they sounded. From Louisville, Colorado, Susan Bright at the Marketplace Bakery wrote and asked if we’ d like some special treat for backstage that evening. We decided on an apple pie. Wow! Can they bake and it turns out that apple pie is Johnny’ s favorite desert. There was not a speck left when we exited the green room which was actually a hair salon called Crazy Horse, the space graciously donated by Debbie. At the gig, the Street Faire, we played for one of the top ten best audiences I think we’ ve ever had. I mean dancing, clapping, screaming, bouncing. Whenever anybody asks me where I get my energy, the answer is directly from the crowd and that night they poured it on. Right up there with Fitzgerald’ s in Berwyn, Illinois and the Waterfront Festival in Portland, Oregon, for being into it. What a blast. And then to top it off, Brendan at the Empire Café invited us over to eat after the show. This is world class cuisine, organic and delicious. All in all, Louisville, Colorado won our hearts (and our stomachs). Thanks to all of you for a terrific night.

The next night in Greeley, we became an “arena act”. Well, it was a rodeo arena but that’ s good enough for me. The Greeley Blues Jam has reached its fifth year and I think they’ ve got it down. We played with Charlie Musselwhite, Walter Trout and Ronnie Baker Brooks plus an array of other good bands from the region. I met a couple of young, like fourteen years old, musicians — a guitar player named Michaela Rae and a harmonica player named Jay Gaunt — who both gave me their CD’ s and, let me tell you, the future of the blues is assured. It was great talking to them, too, because they are so into the music, know what they like and study it seriously. It will be exciting to see how they develop.

Well, having put all that down, I realize that I skipped over a great ten-day run to the Northeast and I want to hit some high spots — the highest being our dinner at Sokolowski’ s University Inn in Cleveland. If you’ re ever in Cleveland, you must go there. It’ s been around and in the family since 1923. Amazing Polish, Czech, Hungarian food. Don’ t take my word for it — Google them and watch what Anthony Bourdain says. Thanks a million calories to Mike and Bernie Sokolowski and to Greg Cielec for setting it up.

I realized on that ten day run that live music is being sustained, in great part, by community groups who want entertainment and who will put their energy and their hearts, souls and money into getting it. We played wonderful venues like Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT and the Guild Hall in Arden, DE., the Ark in Ann Arbor, MI and the Center for the Arts in Saugatuck, MI. These are all very cool rooms sustained by volunteers and often funded by visionary investors. We are so lucky that they are there for us to play. The other gigs on the tour were in equally important, long-lived venues like the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA and the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland and we returned to the Turning Point, one of our old favorites, a tiny room in Piermont, NY.

It was a great tour only marred by one huge boo-boo on our part. In thirty years, I’ ve only missed maybe three gigs. Don says two. But on Sunday, May 31 as we casually drove up the Jersey Turnpike to play our 5:30 PM set at Michael Arnone’ s Crawfish Boil, I got a call from the festival wanting to know where we were and why we were not on stage for our 2 o’ clock show. Bless their hearts, they were as concerned for our safety as they were upset that there was a field full of fans and a no-show band. We had misread the contract and didn’ t realize that we had two shows that day. Entirely our fault and I can’ t apologize enough to Michael and his family, Chuck and Debbie and all of the fans we disappointed through our carelessness. I hope to never make such a mistake again. You try to keep your eye on the ball, so to speak, but sometimes one falls out of the juggle and hits you on the head. Boom.

Meanwhile back at mi casa in Austin, the boat is out of the back yard after seven plus years of construction, starting very stealthily with the lofting of the plans up in Gordon’ s studio and then followed by about a year of mysterious banging and the appearance of what looked like the prow of a Viking ship under the oak tree. People would say, “Is that a boat in your yard?” and I would say, “What boat?” We thought maybe that’ s what we’ d name her but instead, she’ s named after Gordon’ s grandmother, Totsy, and here she is on the trailer and heading for Boston Harbor where she’ ll spend the next year, at least, under Jeb’ s care as he finishes her and school at the same time. Not afraid to bite off a big old hunk of ambition, that guy. She’ s a beauty, like a floating piece of fine furniture. Thanks to neighbor Laura for the photo.

And, instead of tearing down the shed as I’ ve threatened to do since it appeared (what shed?), we’ re going to screen it in and if the temperature ever drops below ninety degrees, we’ ll have a nice place to sit out of the mosquitoes and play dominos.

So, that’ s real life but the music part is probably why you’ re reading this at all and here’ s some news: our dear guitar player, Andrew Nafziger is going to leave the band in the middle of July. He has a year old daughter, Corrina, and he doesn’ t want to miss her childhood running the roads. He also has options — teaching and playing music with some of the best bands around Austin who don’ t require him to be gone half of his life. We really hate to lose him. But! We have hired someone I’ ve wanted to work with for a long time. His name is Mike Schermer and he’ s moving to Austin from the Bay Area of California. He says he’ s been wanting to try Austin so this is working out for both of us. I first heard Mike when he played with Angela Strehli. Most recently he’ s been touring with Elvin Bishop. We’ re looking forward to this new development in the ongoing Marcia Ball Band story. He’ s a great singer, too, so I’ ll be able to do more duets in addition to the ones Don and I do. Come check us out.

There are several exciting things on our horizon including a show on July 18 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, with the symphony. We have thirteen songs charted for full orchestra. In August, we’ re going to Brazil — Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. In November, we have about ten days in Europe including, I hope, a couple of nights in Paris. Oh, boy! No wonder I never get tired of this “rat race”. I’ m one happy rat, let me tell you. This very week, July 2 — 4 is the American Music Festival at Fitzgerald’ s in Berwyn, IL. Go to the website. You won’ t believe the line-up.

Please take care of yourselves, your families, your friends. Stay cool, drive safely, recycle. Come see us and give us a chance to make you dance. Peace, love and fill in the blank!



October 1, 2009

A BLOG IS A BLOG IS A...

Sitting on the bow of the Mary Ellen, the ferry from New London, CT to Orient Point, Long Island, the Coast Guard’ s three-masted schooner on my right (starboard) and the General Dynamics Submarine Port to my left; three hundred years of maritime history separated by two hundred yards of water. I just jumped three feet when the ferry’ s horn sounded our departure and set off a couple of car alarms in the hold. The weather’ s beautiful, sun peeking through the clouds, good breeze – a lot better than the tropical storm we were hoping to avoid. Danny stalled out in North Carolina but the surf is up all the way up the coast to the Ocean Mist in Matunuck, RI. We had a great night there, as always, and it’ s the absolute best beach bar there is. Here’ s the view from their deck.

We played a couple of nights before this at the Camden Opera House in Maine with Roomful of Blues. Those guys are still keeping that big horn, swinging rhythm and blues alive as they have for over 30 years now. They’ ve rotated in some younger players like Travis on keyboards an? Doug on trumpet and they sound terrific. In a few weeks, on September 13, we’ re going to be back up here on the coast playing Roomful’ s old stomping ground, the Knickerbocker in Westerly, RI, newly restored and open for your dancing pleasure. I’ m looking forward to that.

Since last I wrote, we played that gig in Lake Charles with the symphony and it turned out beautifully. The orchestra draws its musicians from up and down the Gulf Coast and the conductor, Bill Grimes, came over from the LSU Music Department. He was what Thad called the “perfect crossover”. He made it his job to have the best show possible. Thad was our translator, reading charts, counting measures. Debbie Reed organized us all. Johnny Medina, our sound engineer, brought order out of chaos and the PA was provided by Bill “Hollywood” Bennett. It’ s always a relief when Bill’ s working a show. I know everything is going to be first class. I’ ve know him so long, I can’ t remember why we call him Hollywood.

Thought for today: I’ m astonished at bloggers; even more astonished at twitterers and facebook aficionados. How can anyone have that much to say? My mother and I can play a whole game of Scrabble and hardly exchange three sentences. I can drive to Houston without talking to Gordon, riding shotgun. Of course, he’ s probably asleep but I could wake him up. There are some blogs I enjoy so much that visiting them is like reading a favorite magazine. Elizabeth McQueen, great singer with Asleep At The Wheel, mother of a one-year-old on the road, has a blog called Miles And Miles Of Diapers: day by day, what it’ s like to tour with a baby. Boy, does that bring back memories. My friend Megan Ranney Duerksen has a wonderful blog called Whatever that I visit when I want to cheer up. She’ s raising five children and she’ s a great photographer. Meanwhile, it’ s hard for me to crank out a note every couple of months. How do they do it?

Speaking of babies, I’ m going to get this in before he’ s old enough to say, “I’ m not a baby”. The other night at Threadgill’ s in Austin, my baby grandson, Linc; my son, Luke; and my mother, Hope, were all in attendance. Baby Linc, was yawning big but enjoying the show and playing “air piano” on the bleachers. The show was a Pianorama; we put five keyboards and a drummer, Corey from my band, on the stage and we pound it out. One of our regulars, Riley Osborne, was out of town so we had Joel Guzman fill the fifth keyboard spot. What a kick? Joel is probably best know as an accordionist with Los Super Seven and with his own band, Aztex and is nominated for a Latin Grammy this year. He also sings and plays whatever other keyboard you might have. Floyd Domino calls him “The Intimidator”. Other players in on the cutting session are Nick Connolly, Johnny Nicholas and special guests David Webb, Chip Dolan and Ben Conroy. Also in attendance was the BBC, taping a segment for a 2010 (can you believe that number?) airing of a show called Human Planet.

We need rain? So last weekend we got some, even in Austin, but not like the rest of the state. We left Austin at 1 PM for a four hour drive to Ft. Worth and a gig with Allen Toussaint. It was raining. We stopped for coffee and gas in Round Rock, about 20 miles up the road. Got back on I-35 and spent the next two hours going 30 miles. Not 30 miles an hour. That would have been a relief. No, creep, creep, creep, stop. When we got to Salado, the San Gabriel River was raging. If they had asked me before I got on the bridge if I wanted to go across I would have said no. It rained all weekend, everywhere we were and still we had a wonderful evening, when we finally got there, at Bass Hall. When I go to heaven, in the far far distant future, Allen Toussaint will have just arrived and he’ ll play the piano and tell stories. And I’ ll know I’ m in heaven.

In between times we were in California for three fun gigs and the debut of our new guitar player, Mike Schermer. Well, I couldn’ t be happier. Of course we loved and miss our recently retired-from-the-band, Andrew, and our thank-goodness-he’ ll-help-us-out-so-well-in-the-interim, Matt Giles. But Mike is a natural fit with a wonderful musical vocabulary and he obviously worked very hard to prepare for the gig so our transition has been painless. And so we went forward and played in another incredibly scenic spot on the shores of Lake Tahoe.


Which, amazingly, brings us to the present, sitting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, playing at the Regatta Bar, staying in the lovely Charles Hotel in Harvard Square, drinking Peet’ s coffee, eating at Henrietta’ s Table. We’ re spoiled, I tell you. Rotten. Yesterday, my friend Joyce, sister of our former sax player, Paul Klemperer, took me to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to see the glass flowers. Words fail. Just go look and if you can ever see this in person, do it. I’ m going back today. While we’ re here, I also get to visit with son Jeb and his wife, Jen, and Gordon’ s coming up so we can all go out on the Totsy, the boat pictured and mentioned in the last Ball Bearings. She’ s in the water and we’ re hoping for good weather this weekend.

So while waiting for Thad to send me his cool pictures of Lake Tahoe, I might as well keep relating tales of the road such as: moving from incredibly historic and picturesque Cambridge, Massachusetts to incredibly historic and picturesque New Hope, Pennsylvania was no chore at all. At the risk of overdoing the superlatives – this was one idyllic little interlude in Bucks County. We stayed at the Porches On The Towpath, a B & B which overcame our reluctance to make conversation at breakfast by setting us up on the private upstairs porch with the view of the old canal and the artfully overgrown secret garden. The gig at Havana was a sell-out and they danced and danced. And? The food? This meal is high up in the top five: perfectly seared scallops, wasabi mashed potatoes, broccoli barely steamed and crispy, créme brulee. Oh my gawd.

So here’ s my resolution: write more often and shorter. What do you think? More like a blog? Put it on my Facebook and Myspace pages as well as shooting these emails to you? Drag myself kicking and screaming into the 21st Century? I’ ll be working on that until next I take pen in hand, or whatever you call this endless nattering. Speaking of which, I’ m reading Mark Twain’ s “The Innocents Abroad” in which he takes part in the first package tour to Europe and the Holy Land and writes about it for a California newspaper. I think of him as up in age, as played by Hal Holbrook, but he’ s only 32 years old when he goes on this trip, already a curmudgeon, grouchy, irreverent and hilarious. A Dave Barry for the 19th Century. Alternately makes you laugh out loud and moves you to tears with his awesome descriptive powers.

Okay, got Thad’ s Tahoe pics, I’ m sending this off so I can go get ready for my breakfast (!) gig in the morning. More to follow as we go blogging in the modern world. Take care, share, please support affordable health care for all.


November 19, 2009

WHEN IS A BLOG NOT A BLOG?

I don’ t have the hang of it yet but here’ s a running travelogue of our wonderful trip to Europe over the past two weeks. I sent this home and to some friends who will now probably be receiving it for the second time, but this time, there are pictures!

photo1OSLO: We have arrived in Oslo and Mama will be glad to know that, after all that fretting, I managed to get here with the right amount of warm clothes. The long wool coat, the boots, the new crocheted hat have all served me well – until the sun disappeared and the temperature dropped. Then I went back to my hotel room which is the size of a Pullman sleeper (if anybody remembers what that is). I’ m only exaggerating slightly to say that it’ s hard to open my suitcase and stand in the room at the same time. Cozy but warm, and there’ s internet access, a book to read, yarn to crochet, Spanish to study.

We checked out the club, Herr Nilsen, and it’ s a cool little jazz bar. They say we’ ll have a good crowd. That would be about 100. I’ ll take it. Had to take a shot of this restaurant in Oslo.

This is the land of fabulous boots! I’ ve heard that the people over here are attractive but I been so busy looking at their feet, I couldn’ t swear to that.

The McDonald’ s where Gordon and I bought Luke a $14 Happy Meal in 1987 is still here. I’ ll do a price check tomorrow.

It’ s 4 PM here and trying to get dark. Think I’ ll take a nap. Love to all, Marcia

ODENSE, DENMARK: More boots. A small city with a busy downtown on a Saturday afternoon. The shop windows are full of colorful, patterned, layered clothes, beautiful knit work, especially the children’ s clothes. Like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Oh, yeah! This was his home. His house and a great big statue of him plus quite a few other pieces of public art, some illustrating his stories, are all around the center of town. I missed the signs to his house and therefore missed seeing the neighborhood, which, when I glimpsed it as we drove out early this morning, looked like something out of Dickens or maybe Hamlet. Next time, I’ ll be sure to ask where the Quaintarea is.

The dollar goes farther here than in Norway. It would be hard to be as expensive as that. (The Big Mac, by the way, was at $12 and there are several McDonald’ s in Oslo now.) Our host tells us that Norway has oil so the people have more money. Pity the ones who don’ t.

Denmark feels more like the Netherlands than Scandinavia. It’ s flat, green and overcast. Pretty, though. The gig at the Musikhuset went great and Steen and company were the perfect hosts.

Pat, several guys mentioned that they’ re taking what must be the local dream vacation: Motorbiking across America. Fine for them, but there’ s a lot of America I don’ t want to experience without AC, cup holders, satellite radio and a roof over my head.

photo2COPENHAGEN AIRPORT: Security shakes down my computer bag and finds a corkscrew I didn’ t know I had. Big deal! I finally get through and I’ m in a huge mall. Bigger than Highland Mall, a Starbucks, major designer stores. A giant Duty Free shop full of whiskey and wine. (And me without my lethal corkscrew.) There are no water fountains. They brag about making plastic bottles with 25% less plastic but if you don’ t want to buy one, you can drink out of your hand in the bathroom. Seriously told to me by the clerk who sold me a $4 bottle of water.

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA: Not at all what you expect. Pretty much all Quaintarea.

A beautiful city center with cobblestone streets, a dozen big churches. Our host, Arturas, took us to a typical Lithuanian restaurant, Cili, pronounced chili – dumplings, beets, potato pancakes, and a couple of more interesting appetizers like pigs ears and chicken stomachs. Beer, beer, beer. Arturas is a basketball nut. Follows the Lithuanian National Team all over the world where they win, big time. He’ s taking Thad, Corey and Mike to a local team game tonight. More beer, beer, beer.

photo3It’ s full blown winter here, no ocean currents to modify the temperature. We’ re staying in the Shakespeare Hotel – every room named for a famous author or personality. I’ m in the Churchill. Next door is the Thomas Hardy, Mama. Don’ s in the James Joyce – he says it’ s pretty stark. Mine is lovely and has great pictures of the PM on the walls. Special perk: that rarest of European amenities – the wash cloth.

We got a terrific walking tour of Old Town Vilnius courtesy of Linus. My favorite thing among many delights is pictured to the right. It’ s a bridge across the creek where people who get married, come and place a lock on the railing as a symbol of their union. There are hundreds of locks on the two bridges I saw.

So, more sightseeing tomorrow and the gig. Then off to Paris. Wonder if they have any boots. Marcia

photo4PARIS: I’ m off boots (not really) and on to bread. Bread! Everybody’ s carrying it. You smell it everywhere. It’ s gorgeous and crispy and golden. I picture my hotel room piled up with baguettes and croissants and brioche. I’ m eating as much as I can and when you’ re walking 7 or 8 hours a day, you can do that. I started to cramp up about hour 7 today but I’ ve covered some ground. Today is Armistice Day and a very big deal when you’ re a few blocks from the Arch de Triomphe as we are. Yesterday, when we arrived I had a late lunch in a café with a great view of the Arch and could hear the martial music and see the marching soldiers in their hats like coffee cans, preparing for the parade today. Then I took the fine Paris Metro to the Hotel de Ville, went to the Notre Dame, poked around in the Latin Quarter, cut through the BHV (cue the music, Tracy) and circled back to the hotel for dinner and a glass of that fine French red. Collapsed for nine hours.

Today, I lured Johnny and Don out with promises of a flea market which turned out to be more of a quaint narrow shopping street, Rue Mouffetard. To get there, though, we went back to Notre Dame and this time spent more time enjoying the stained glass, then we wandered past the Sorbonne and the Institut Curie. I didn’ t realize that this was Johnny’ s first trip to Paris until we turned the corner by the Eiffel Tower and he gasped. Made his day. Pretty much makes any day, really.

Then they peeled off and I went to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre and from there to Place Concorde and the Tuileries and a long walk home on the Champs Elysees.

Tomorrow, museums. Definitely, Musee D’ Orsay. Maybe the cemetery, Pere Lachaise. I’ m interested in Montparnasse, where the cancan was invented and where the beats lived and where Picasso and Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre hung out. I got a three day Metro pass and I keep expecting it to kick back and say, “Arret! All used up”, but so far it’ s my ticket to ride.

Oh, yeah! And we have a gig tonight (and tomorrow) here at Le Meridien in the Jazz Bar. Curious to see if we can pass for jazz. Plan to play at a whisper. I’ ll let you know how that goes.
photo5
By the way, the boots here are great! Love to all, Marcia

LUCERNE: Drop dead gorgeous. On Lake Lucerne and the Reuss River, every picture I took is a postcard shot. You can’ t miss with the covered bridges and the stick dam and the beautiful view of Mount Pilatus.

I quit fighting it and just bought a croissant whenever the spirit moved me. Left one in the hotel when we checked out. The Lucerne Blues Festival was impeccably run and the audiences were warm and very enthusiastic. It was a gathering of American and European blues artists and fans from all over Europe. I did interviews with Swiss, German and Italian press. On Sunday, we played a brunch gig in possibly the most beautiful room I’ ve ever worked attended by the sponsors and supporters of the festival. Very well heeled. Boots, of course.

LONDON: Our gig was cancelled but we had to pass through to catch our plane home so after we checked into our hotel, Don and Johnny and I took the train to Soho and Piccadilly Circus. We stumbled upon Bond Street, home of the highest end jewelry stores with windows full of diamonds shining so bright you could hardly see them at all. Also, the major designer shops were all decorated for Christmas, Cartier especially fine. Next block over is Seville Row where Bond, James Bond, buys his suits. We went down to look at the club we didn’ t play, Pigalle, and walked up Carnaby Street, tried to find the old hotel where we stayed on our first trip to London years ago but I think it’ s a hole in the ground now.

I never bought any boots.

Finally we admitted that our trip was over and we went back to get some sleep. Flew home in a 777 so empty everybody had a whole row of seats to themselves. It’ s really good to be home, picked up by the husband, smeared by the dogs. We have a crew working on our roof and a house under construction across the street and a bit of a remodel behind us so it’ s a mess parking around here but the up side is that the taco truck comes by a couple of times a day. When else can you get tacos delivered? I’ m in heaven.

Thanks for riding along with us. Hope to see you soon. Love,



December 27, 2009

BYE BYE 2009

It’ s Christmastime in Texas and all the telephone lines are up to paraphrase a blues song I heard tonight sung by Jimmie Vaughan at Antone’ s with special guests Joel Guzman, Nick Curran, Lou Ann Barton and Boz Scaggs. Present but not playing – Chris “Whipper” Layton and Gary Clark, Jr. It has been a very musical holiday in semi-tropical Austin. That means that unlike Washington, D.C. or Chicago, there’ s no snow on the ground and people are out in light wraps enjoying a post-overeating exercise regime of dancing or at least swaying to the music. On Christmas night you could see Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King at Antone’ s. On Christmas Eve, Lavelle White’ s Christmas Party at the Saxon Pub or the Tejana Dames closing of the Armadillo Bazaar and much more than I can list here. Quintessential Austin.

As 2009 draws to a close, I’ m thankful for many things – my family and friends, health and hope, a flawed but possibly helpful health care bill from our goofy U.S. Congress, music and literature that continues to inspire us and raise our spirits, my fine band, the prospect of cruising with Delbert one more time, some fun gigs to look forward to in 2010.

Thank you all for continued support of all kinds. Until we see you again, stay warm, be safe, love with all your heart, pray for peace.


December 27, 2009

BYE BYE 2009

It’ s Christmastime in Texas and all the telephone lines are up to paraphrase a blues song I heard tonight sung by Jimmie Vaughan at Antone’ s with special guests Joel Guzman, Nick Curran, Lou Ann Barton and Boz Scaggs. Present but not playing – Chris “Whipper” Layton and Gary Clark, Jr. It has been a very musical holiday in semi-tropical Austin. That means that unlike Washington, D.C. or Chicago, there’ s no snow on the ground and people are out in light wraps enjoying a post-overeating exercise regime of dancing or at least swaying to the music. On Christmas night you could see Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King at Antone’ s. On Christmas Eve, Lavelle White’ s Christmas Party at the Saxon Pub or the Tejana Dames closing of the Armadillo Bazaar and much more than I can list here. Quintessential Austin.

As 2009 draws to a close, I’ m thankful for many things – my family and friends, health and hope, a flawed but possibly helpful health care bill from our goofy U.S. Congress, music and literature that continues to inspire us and raise our spirits, my fine band, the prospect of cruising with Delbert one more time, some fun gigs to look forward to in 2010.

Thank you all for continued support of all kinds. Until we see you again, stay warm, be safe, love with all your heart, pray for peace.


December 31, 2010

NEW YEAR'S EVE

Kiss 2009 goodbye. Let’ s welcome the new year with high hopes. We’ ll be celebrating with our good friends, the Fitzgeralds, in Berwyn, Illinois. There’ s snow on the ground and more coming down but we’ re expecting a full house and it’ s going to be red hot inside the club tonight. We’ ll be thinking of all of our good friends all over the country and the world, toasting to family, health, friendship, happiness, love, and prosperity. We will be wishing you well.

The wonderful thing about playing music is that every day I think of someplace we’ ve been, some people we’ ve met, who are doing the real work of lifting people’ s spirits. Music and the intrepid gamblers who produce shows and festivals, who travel and play gigs, who support the artists by creating societies, foundations and charities, that’ s what keeps us going. It’ s a generous community and in return for often very little compensation, they bring hope and joy (and barbecue) to the world every day and night. We’ re working on the peace part.

As for me, I resolve to do something in 2010 so good that it honors the memories of Eddie Bo, Bud Shrake, Stephen Bruton and Robin Shivers.

If I start thanking people, it’ ll go on all night long. But what the heck – I don’ t have anything to do until sound check. Just stop reading when you get tired of it:

I want to thank our families, my great band, Alligator Records, The Rosebud Agency, Page Hite, Deb Fleming, Antone’ s, Fitzgerald’ s, The Blues Foundation, The New Orleans Jazz Fest, Sweet Home New Orleans, HAAM, the Delbert Sandy Beaches Cruise, The Palms, The Triple Door, B.B. King’ s in NYC, Knuckleheads, Dosey Doe, Rhythm and Roots, Michael Arnone’ s Crawfish Boil, The Belly Up, Rancho Nicasio, The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, Irma Thomas, The Stone Mountain Art Center, Seth Walker, the Turning Point, Dominos For World Peace, the Knickerbocker, The Ocean Mist, Sokolowski’ s in Cleveland, the Granada, Bobby Charles, The Rams Head, The State Theater in Falls Church, VA, the Birchmere, Tracy Nelson, Yoshi’ s, my Pilates instructor Darragh, The Aladdin Theater in Portland, OR, the Dakota in Minneapolis, Crystal Bay Casino, The Houston International Festival, Snug Harbor, Jimmy Anselmo, The Chocolate Church, Loose Wheels, The Ark, The Iron Horse, The Beachland Ballroom, the whole towns of Louisville and Greeley, CO, Sengelmann Hall, Blues on the Green, KRVS, The Bourbon Street Club in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that great NYC Hudson River cruise, The Stephen Talkhouse, The Little Fox, Angela and Bob, The Regatta Bar, Floyd Domino, Nancy Coplin, Elvin Bishop, Kimmie Rhodes, Skipper’ s Smokehouse, Mama’ s doctors, all the folks in Oslo at Herr Mueller’ s, in Odense, Denmark, in Vilnius, Lithuania, at Le Meridien in Paris and especially at the Lucerne Blues Festival, everybody who played on my Birthday Bash in February, everyone who came to my Birthday Bash, the Pousson Family who all worked on my Birthday Bash, Red Young, Brian Nolan, The Tejana Dames, The Firedogs, Sculler’ s, House of Blues in New Orleans, Tipitina’ s, W.C. Clark, Artz Ribhouse, Tom Marker, Ben Sandmel, John T. Davis, River Ranch, Blue Moon Saloon, Linda Bacon, Threadgill’ s, the Continental Club, Margaret Moser, The Saxon Pub...

There are more but the band’ s here and it’ s sound check time. We’ re going to party like it’ s 2009! You too.


January 10, 2010

THE BILTMORE

I swear - we stayed at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida last night. Think the Babes - Ruth and Zaharias, in golfing knickers playing with persimmon drivers, an unfinished hotel tower in the background. The place drips with historic cool and present-day luxury. It's the Miami of legend: long, low, tile-roofed houses set in lush tropical gardens shaded by oak trees that twine together over the streets. Gorgeous. Unfortunately, it was 36 degrees and raining. The locals were not happy. We were okay with it because it was 18 degrees in Austin and it's warming up today and we're on our way to get on Delbert's Sandy Beaches Cruise shucking layers of clothes as we go.

Our gig last night at the U. Of Miami was a fundraiser for the study of ethics and public service in honor of Steve Chaykin. We really appreciated the chance to play for this group and their cause. We especially loved it when the spirit took the audience and the big umbrella came out for a march around the auditorium. Very Chaykin, I'm told.

So now we're crossing the Everglades, the sun is shining and I've got to quit typing and start looking at the birds. Amazing egrets and herons of all sizes and colors. I think I saw an eagle. Need my bird book. Okay - now I just saw an alligator! No joke! Okay - now we've seen about ten of them sunning on the bank of the canal alongside the road. Cool.

More later. Stay warm. Marcia


January 19, 2010

SLOGGING AND BLOGGING

Whew! Back from the Delbert Sandy Beaches (there's a beach?!) Cruise. Burned the candle at both ends and the middle. Teresa James overwhelms with her voice and her grooves; Fred Eaglesmith makes you laugh, then cry; Paul Thorne makes you laugh, then rock; Raul Malo makes you swoon; Cyril Neville, Tab Benoit and Wayne Toups hit me right where I live and make "happy feet"; Jimmy Hall and Mike Farris inspire; Seth Walker swings. And more: Mingo Fishtrap, Doyle and Debbie, songwriters, Pianorama, Big Joe, Nick Connolly. Delbert rules over all. Peter and Jane dance every dance. Linda and Jim, too, and their granddaughter Sarah is the Sweetheart of the Whole Dang Rodeo. You must do this!

You know what’ s harder than packing? Unpacking! Packing is grab and stuff. Unpacking is sorting and washing and hanging and feeling silly for taking all that stuff you didn’ t need.

The best meal of the week: Thai food in West Bay, Roatan, Honduras. Go figure.

We loved our gig Sunday night at Skipper’ s Smokehouse in Tampa. What a great joint and a great crowd. Many thanks to Patty’ s (wonderful) Pod for coming out and bringing the giantest (?) grapefruit I’ ve ever seen. Many more thanks to everybody who came and danced the night away.

Thanks also to Beth McKee who opened for us at the Plaza Theater in Orlando. She’ s terrific, plays piano, and has a whole new album of Bobby Charles songs. It was ironic that a few days after that show, we got the news that Bobby had passed away. His health had not been good for a long time but he was still writing and had completed a new album which I look forward to hearing. We’ ll miss our friend and his beautiful creative spirit.

I lost my Blackberry between the boat and the airport on Sunday so if you expected to hear from me and didn’ t, that could be why. My personally unheeded advice: go sync your phone database with your computer. Right now. And maybe you should think about insurance. Duh.

More when there is any.


January 21, 2010

CRUISE FALLOUT

So now everybody’ s piling their Sandy Beaches photos on to Facebook and I think – Damn. I did everything I could do and had all the fun I could stand and it still looks like those people might have had more fun than me. Did they sleep? Well, I’ ll do better next year – I say every year.

Right now I’ m going see a show of David Bates’ s paintings at the Austin Museum of Art. He’ s so very cool. If you look him up, you’ ll see why I like him. Just my type of stuff. Then lunch and then...auditioning a drummer. Yes, Corey Keller is leaving the band. Another damn. Please pardon my language but I hate to see him go. And my mother is inconsolable. But times and people have to move along and fortunately we have some very good prospects so we’ ll keep on keeping on.

This weekend, we’ re going to Port Arthur, Texas to play a gig in honor of Janis Joplin’ s birthday and, by the way, I’ ll be inducted into the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame. Persistence pays off. I’ ll now be part of the world that I fell in love with when I was a kid listening to the bands in the Catholic Hall across the street from my house. So happy.

In my last post I offered some cell phone advice (after losing mine in a cab). I forgot to say: always get the cab number. It may not help you get your lost item back but it focuses your anger.

Off to look at art.


January 24, 2010

HELP HAITI

e had a real fun time in Port Arthur playing and being inducted into the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame. The musical line-up at the gig was excellent - Ultrasuede, featuring Susan Pierce singing Janis and Jivin' Gene doing a great set topped off with his hit "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do". The best part was hearing the stories of my co-inductee, Floyd Soileau, the legendary record producer and promoter from Ville Platte, La. He is truly part of the history of Louisiana music recording.

Came home and played a Help Austin Help Haiti fundraiser at the Austin Music Hall put together by Joe and Sharon Ely. Amazing line-up - Sean Colvin, Robert Earl Kean, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, Reckless Kelly, The Gourds, The Flatlanders, and more. Big more. Dear Austin musicians, always ready to help.


January 31, 2010

THE BUGLE BOY AND THE GRAMMYS

I had a real fun gig tonight, solo, down in LaGrange, TX at a listening room called The Bugle Boy. Eighty seats and a whole lot of soul. It reminds me of a couple of my other favorite rooms – The Ark in Ann Arbor and Stone Mountain Art Center in Maine – but smaller. It’ s pretty unique here in Texas to have someone try this and make it work as well as Lane has. Many of the Austin songwriters play there and the audience is very appreciative. I’ m so glad it works and I hope we get some more of these rooms especially since the word flew around Austin today that the Cactus Café is closing. This is one of the premier listening rooms in the country, in the Student Union at the University of Texas. It’ s been around since 1979 but it requires some financial support from the University and they’ re cutting it off. We have a five million dollar football coach we need to pay. So we’ ll have to drive to San Marcos or Lagrange to hear our poets and pickers, our prophets and our pilgrims.

And it took about an hour’ s ride to wind down from the gig. Going solo is a workout for me. It may be that I miss my drummer the most judging from how hard I pound the floor while I’ m playing but the whole thing is like bareback riding. There’ s nothing to hold onto and you can fly off into space at any moment. So I came home and watched the Grammies on TV. Last year I was there. This year, I had a better seat. Here’ s my few cents:

Liked Norah Jones’ haircut. Thought the Michael Jackson tribute had some great singing going on but forgot my 3-D glasses. Loved looking at the audience in their 3-D glasses. Make no apologies for not knowing anything about the Zac Brown Band (New Artist, after all) but really liked them and their harmonies and the guitar playing and, of course, the special appearance by Leon Russell. Kept getting run out of the room by music I couldn’ t get into so I missed some stuff like Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige and may have to download the song from Itunes. Gordon fell asleep during Bon Jovi so he missed Jeff Beck playing “ How High The Moon” with that great blond in the gold dress singing. Missed her name. Went online to find out who won in the categories I care about: Blues, Americana, Zydeco/Cajun. Buckwheat Zydeco won. As far as I’ m concerned, they’ re all winners and make beautiful music. Glad Ramblin’ Jack Elliot won. My daughter-in-law likes the Kings of Leon so I’ m glad they won especially since one of them said they like Blaze Foley, a late legendary Texas songwriter.

So, thoroughly wound down, I’ m going to close the book on today. I have another solo performance on Tuesday, this one a song swap in honor of Rod Kennedy, the Kerrville Folk Festival founder. I’ ll only be doing a couple of songs, I figure, since the others on my segment of the show are Robert Earl Kean, Ray Benson, Eliza Gilkyson, and the Flatlanders (Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock). That’ s some serious songwriter overload. Glad I got all warmed up today.

Speaking of which: you stay warm. It could snow all the way down here in Centex so it must be cold all over the world. More when there is any.


April 8, 2010

YODEL-E-AY

Berne, Switzerland was so lovely, all decorated for Easter. Marian's Jazz Room is legendary. Can't believe how many great artists have played there. Intimidating but the crowds were warm and appreciative. Ate my weight in chocolate and yes, Ginger, I got some Batons Kirsch, thanks to Nilly. Ate two between shows one night and was high-ola. Very happy to be going to Norman, OK, Friday, 4/9, to play the Sooner Theater. Always a great time there. P.S.: Happy Anniversary, Len and Cindy.


At this point in our archives, Marcia abandoned the blog and turned to facebook. The Web Gator didn't see a true Ball Bearings again until...


29 August, 2010

IT'S SEPTEMBER???

Okay, so here’ s what happened: first there was the website and Ball Bearings and then there was the blog idea, then there was MySpace which I resisted but my friend Nancy offered to work it for me because it’ s a good idea for communicating with friends and fans, then there was Facebook, personal and fan pages and lots of friends and cool things going on all the time. Finally, with all of that stuff to look at and write about...well, I just got paralyzed. I just look and look and don’ t write.

Meanwhile, there’ s a record to make – and that’ s what it’ s all about anyway – and it’ s going real well, writing songs, planning recordings. And then there are the gigs, fabulous gigs, all over. Visits to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Niagara Falls and New York City...

Niagra Falls           New York City

and festivals in Mount Snow and Chinango County and Ottawa and Rhythm and Roots and a beautiful weekend in Colorado and Bucks County and Ann Arbor and Lowell, Massachusetts. There are books to read like Rosanne Cash’ s memoir and “ Dancer” about Barishnikov and the new John Sandford and old Ross Thomases.

And there’ s husband time and family time and dog time and friend time and domino time and time sitting on the screen porch and roof repairs and tearing out the old bathroom (what have we done?!) and going to hear music and celebrating Antone’ s anniversary the whole month of July and swimming and trying to keep the plants alive in the Texas heat and figuring out how to get to the next gig and cooking up a storm and zoom, the summer’ s gone.

I’ m not whining. I’ m just saying. These are what Bruton would call luxury problems. So now that we’ re all caught up, I’ ll try to keep a little more in the here and now. It has been a great summer of work and we’ ll be busy into the fall right up to the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise and beyond. Thanks for all of the fun and support. We have the best crowds of anyone I know. That’ s why we get asked back.

Here’ s a little example of that – we’ ve been carrying paper fans and asking for donations which are going to the Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana – a food bank helping people affected by the oil spill’ s economic catastrophe in South Louisiana. Last night in Lowell, we only had about twenty fans out but people kept putting money in the box until there was over $200. The best, most generous people, our crowd.

This has been a week of mixed emotions for us. Twenty years ago, we lost Stevie Vaughan. Five years ago, Katrina changed everything. The combat troops left Iraq but we need to get them all home and out of Afghanistan, too. It’ s Larry Monroe’ s birthday, but it’ s also his last Blue Monday on KUT. It’ s Linc’ s birthday, too, and that’ s pure joy except he won’ t be getting the Bobcat and the nail gun he wants. After all, he’ s only three. Glad I don’ t have to break the news to him.

Have a great Labor Day and don’ t labor too hard. Chill.


March 1, 2011

My AUTO-BIOGRAPHY

Yesterday I got a call from a Gator. Not Alligator Records, no. But from my Web Gator who informed me that I haven’t written a Ball Bearings since September, or maybe it was April. Guilty as sin. I got a little mixed up over how to communicate what’s going on – web site, blog, email, Myspace, Facebook? I’m digging all this social connection but I’ve developed a new syndrome – FOMO. That’s Fear Of Missing Out which occurs when you read about everything everybody all over the world is doing that you’re not. The other syndrome which I’ve invented myself is IDGAH (I Don’t Give A Hoot), the nicest way I can put it for whatever’s going on in Farmville and Mafia Wars. You want war? Read the paper about the Middle East or Juarez. Here I go already! You may stop reading at any time. You may already have IDGAH.

Anyway, the Gator said to write and, truly, much has happened.

For instance, it’s hard to believe that we were on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise just last October. That seems like so long ago. But there are pictures of me hanging out with Irma Thomas and Eden Brent and Kelley Hunt and Bill Wax to prove it. I even was a background vocalist for Edgar Winter one night. Free Ride!

Marcia and Edgar Winter

Starting in October, we recorded a new album produced by Gary Nicholson. It will be officially released on March 29, 2011 and it is full of original songs and songs written with Gary and a couple of ringers, Dan Penn and Tom Hambridge. The title is “Roadside Attractions” and this explains why I keep taking pictures of concrete dinosaurs and giant polka-dot chickens. And lit up cars in February in my own neighborhood:

electric car

The album is full of short stories and tall tales, as the promo packet says, and should be titled “My Auto-Biography”. We’re hitting the road hard in April and I hope we stay busy all through the year. My band is rocking and the new songs are fun to play. We’re going to debut the album at a series of shows around Austin starting with Threadgill’s on March 25 on a double bill with The Drakes, one of my favorite bands. This will be broadcast on KGSR. Then we’ll have our in-store at Waterloo Records, one of the last and greatest standing record stores. Then there’s a pre-release show at Antone’s, Austin’s Home Of The Blues, my home club thanks to Susan Antone’s undying devotion to keeping the blues alive. That’s March 11.

Speaking of Antone’s – I was a guest there the other night with a spectacular group of women: Cindy Cashdollar, Carolyn Wonderland, Shelley King, Terri Hendrix, Rosie Flores, Lisa Pankratz, Sarah Brown, Patricia Vonne, and much more. Lou Ann Barton played a great set. Wonderful night. Hey, hey! Found the poster:

Antones Poster

The recording took us into the holiday season and the holidays carried us straight into Delbert’s Sandy Beaches Cruise – a “vacation” only if you consider a series of all-night music events restful. What happens on the boat is that after the regularly scheduled shows, the musicians and intrepid cruisers roam the halls checking out the piano bars and lounges to see who is still up and jamming. It’s always Raul Malo; often Delbert, Tab Benoit, Mike Schermer, Bekka Bramlett, various Mingo Fishtraps, too. There is also a spectacular Pianorama. There are about fifteen great keyboard players on the trip. If you check out my Marcia Ball Band Facebook page, there’s a link to this phenomenon. (I think.)

And just to keep things interesting, (and so you don’t think I’ve been sitting around playing Scrabble on my telephone), I’ve been “acting” in a movie. My friend Turk Pipkin wrote a Christmas story a few years ago and now it’s being turned into a film starring Kris Kristofferson and Harry Connick, Jr., plus Fionnula Flanagan, Connie Britton and Dana Wheeler-Nicholson. They’re using a whole bunch of Austin musicians. I must say “acting” came very naturally to me. The direction was mostly wear your own clothes and be yourself. Watching the real actors when they turn it on is fascinating, though.

As soon as the new record comes out, we’ll be hitting the road hard. First, we have a run to the Northeast US and then we’re going out West. Then it’s the Jazz Festival in New Orleans. Woohoo! The Web Gator who bugged me until I wrote this has been working hard updating the Schedule page on our site and getting us into a new mailing list program and a new sales program for the Marcia Ball Mall. All to serve you better, reach you more efficiently and, in return, hear what you have to say. If there’s someplace we’re not going to appear and you want us there, tell us and tell the folks on your end, too. We’ll get there as quick as we can.

Thanks for the continued support through all the miles and years and gigs. It continues to be a blast and the real Roadside Attractions are the people who come to our shows. That’s what makes the road interesting and fun. We’ll be seeing you soon,


June 7, 2011

KIND OF LIKE A BALL BEARING...

Sometime back in early April while we were touring in the Northeast U.S, my friend Minor Wilson, who has been working at film making for a few years now, called me to say that there were fourteen pianos placed outdoors in public spaces in Austin for a month.  Several were on the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake.  Several were in front of downtown buildings.  One was in a BMX bicycle park.  They were part of a touring art project called Play Me, I’m Yours by Luke Jerram.  In Austin, the exhibition was curated by Johnny Walker.  Minor’s idea was that he and his cinematographer friend, Daniel DeLoach, could film me playing as many pianos as we could get to in the two days I was home between tours.  Well, what else did I have to do?

So, we shot at my house and three outdoor pianos one afternoon and evening and three more pianos early the next morning.  We had to roust a guy sleeping on the park bench by the lake for that shot.  It was about 7:30 AM.  You know how I love getting up in the morning.  And there it is, warts, old pianos, weird tuning, no makeup.  My favorite is the red upright in the BMX bicycle park with the riders flying around behind me.  It was very cool having that project here in Austin.  People were coming by playing those pianos the whole time we were setting up.  There were others filming and taping, and one large event that I missed because I was traveling in which many of Austin’s piano players all played at the same time in tribute to Pinetop Perkins.  The YouTube link to see the result of our filming is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHETPRFo4PY

Meanwhile, “Roadside Attractions” is still getting good American airplay.  It’s XM/Sirius B.B. King’s Bluesville’s #1 Pick To Click for this week.  Is getting very nice reviews:  http://blurt-online.com/reviews/view/3085/.  Nine weeks on the Billboard Blues Chart.  Six weeks at #1 on the Roots Music Report Blues Chart.  And as my guitar player, Mike Schermer says, it will probably net us over $48 dollars in royalties.

It was great touring East and West in April and spending almost two weeks in New Orleans during Jazz Fest.  Whew!  After that, I was sleep deprived and cholesterol overloaded, but so happy.  Especially after Joan’s crawfish bisque (that’s my favorite dish).

Joan's Crawfish Bisque


I accidentally became “the thing that sat in” by accepting an very generous invitation from Glen David Andrews to join him on his set on Sunday, May 1 in the Blues Tent.  He blew the top off of the place.  Amanda Shaw and Paul Sanchez were also up there with him and finally, toward the end, his cousin Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews came in and what started over the top climbed into the clouds.  I skipped out before they all began the hip-hop dance but it looked like fun.  Glen’s band is excellent and it was fun playing different stuff with them.

The day before, I went to see Irma Thomas play her set on the Acura Stage and she invited me to sing our greatest hit, “Sing It”, from our album together.  But the thing that made me really froggy was playing for two hours plus straight at the Maple Leaf Bar on Friday night.  It was a total flash-back to our regular gigs there in days gone by.  Many of the same characters haunt the place but there’s air-conditioning and a bigger stage and they had a backstage room set up across the street.  It was really a lot of fun.

We also played the beautiful Ogden Museum of Southern Art with Matt Perrine’s Sunflower City, Lafayette Square Park with Gal Holiday, and Southport Hall with Delbert and Johnny Nicholas’ Texas All-Star Band.  And more.  Lots more, including my annual Snug Harbor gig with Tom McDermott and Joe Krown, joined this year by the boogie-woogie master, Bob Seeley.

Snug Harbor gig


Coming up this week, the Granada Theater in Dallas and our return, after an long absence, to the Kerrville Folk Festival.  But for now, I’m home digging out my desk and my studio and my closet from under all of the accumulation that sneaks in while my back is turned.  If I could only turn catalogs and junk mail back into trees...

Stay cool, travel safely, dance every chance you get, love freely, donate generously.



P.S. I've been nominated for two of the 2011 Living Blues Awards: Blues Artist of the Year (Female) and Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard). These awards are voted on by the fans and I'd really appreciate your vote. Please take a moment to visit the Living Blues website, click on the big VOTE button and fill out a ballot before July 15. Thanks for your support.


August 17, 2011

CALIFORNIA AND COLORADO

Okay, I admit it – I couldn’t stand the heat so I got out of the kitchen. Oh, Austin, I love you but you’re drying up. I will probably get arrested or go broke pouring water on the ground but it’s not because I want green grass. I have one fine large old oak tree and if I let it die, then they should put me in jail. So we water. From a distance.

First we went to California. Well, first we went to Phoenix and Tucson – but it’s a dry heat. The gigs at the Compound Grill and the Rialto Theater were great and it’s been way too long since we were in those towns. I hope not so long before we return. Then, the Golden State – Hollywood – outside in a mall sponsored by KKJZ – a great radio station. While we were in L.A., I went to the Getty Museum. Wow! Beautiful views, buildings, art, food, gardens. I loved this quotation in the French furniture display.

Next, to Solana Beach for a fun return to the Belly Up and the beach, then Agoura Hills – for our best crowd so far at the Canyon Club, and to San Juan Capistrano for a really good night with Coco Montoya and a lunch stop at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Campeon where we’ve been eating since Chris Miller turned us on to it. That’s mole, menudo, big old tacos, liquados. Mmmmm.

And so on, up to the Bay Area for the Palms Playhouse in Winters. Always such a great crowd. We finished off at Rancho Nicasio’s Sunday afternoon barbecue and a good visit with Angela and Bob, Lou and Suzanne, Bonnie and Ed, Charles and Linda, Mike Duke. When we got to the Oakland airport on Monday, Johnny said, “Take one last breath of cool air.” And he was right.

But we only spent two days in Austin, unpacking, washing, packing, loving on our loved ones and taking off for Colorado. Oh, yes! A whole air-conditioned state. Cool breeze, warm people, fresh air, not a lot of it. Gasp! Our first date was in Vale; a beautiful day and a very receptive audience. Great to see Brian Nolan and the many people from Louisiana who get out of the heat (like us) and help to sponsor the Vail Jazz Festival.

And then... we just love Louisville, Colorado! Three years running, playing the Street Faire to a big, happy, dancing audience and then going to the Empire Lounge and Restaurant for dinner. Oh, boy and yum! We also made off with three kinds of bread from Susan Bright’s Marketplace Bakery and reporting in right now – excellent! The cracked wheat, especially. Louisville was just picked as the best small town in America by Money Magazine. I hope that doesn’t mess things all up.

After that, we came into Denver for the Pearl Street Blues Festival. Big Bill Morganfield and Bugs Henderson were there, too. Big crowd, rocking out. We couldn’t get through the people to the food booths so we ducked into Lincoln’s on the corner and came out with delicious shrimp po-boys. Never expected that. Thanks to Dave McIntyre and Swallow Hill for putting us on that fun show.

Last and far from least, we doubled back to the Grande River Winery in Palisade, Colorado. This is a place and a gig that we love returning to. This time, even though it rained, a couple of hundred people came out with plastic ponchos and big umbrellas and danced in the grass. The show was a benefit for the CSU Horticulture/Tree Fruit Research Project and, let me tell you, they’ve got their peaches down. In fact, the entire meal they served was locally grown food except for the rice. (Sidebar quote from Mitch Hedberg: “Rice is great when you’re hungry and want 2,000 of something”.) We left with some of that wonderful Meritage wine and two flats of the famous peaches – one from Yum-Yummy Peaches (“Ain’t That A Peach”) and one from the Clark Family Orchards.

Peaches for days and cobbler for dessert tonight. Living large!

So, Gordon and I are visiting family in Denver. He’s painting and golfing and I’m reading and loafing. It’s cool. We’re so lucky.

If you’re doing Facebook, please friend us on the Marcia Ball Band page. I lurk about and sometimes write on there about what we’re doing. If you’re considering going on the Delbert McClinton Sandy Beaches Cruise, check out Delbert.com for video teasers. They’re adding groovy acts like Eric Lindell and Joe Ely. We’re playing at our home base, Antone’s, this Saturday night and then hitting the road again for Paola, Kansas and the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. After that, a good Northeast run of dates. Y’all come! I’m writing a new verse for “Roadside Attractions” that you must hear. They’re everywhere! Will write more sooner than later, promise!


January 18, 2012

LUCKY, LUCKY, LUCKY

How lucky you say? As this tale unfolds you may question my interpretation of the word but here's the story. We are presently leaving Lake Charles on our trip home from Tampa, Lake Worth, Delbert's Sandy Beaches Cruise, Orlando and New Orleans. At 1 AM I was driving and had just made the decision to take the I- 210 loop through Lake Charles when there was a popping noise even louder than the music in my headphones. Weird noise, not a tire. So I exited and limped to a convenience store/gas stop and we investigated. It was pretty clear we weren't going to be home by 6 AM as planned, but what? The guys were shoulder deep in the engine and I was in the store keeping warm and out of the way when a guy walked in, bought a pack of cigarettes and said, "That your van? Sounds like you threw a spark plug". The upshot is, we followed him to his tire shop four blocks away and he tried for an hour to get a plug in, then he piled the six of us in his Denali and drove us to a hotel (this is all in the middle of the night), had our van towed this morning to his buddy's shop with all the tools, they fixed it and we are back on the road home. With any more luck, we'll still be home on Wednesday! This happens to us. You spend enough time running the roads and you're bound to break down sometime but we often get an angel to help us on our way and this time the angel's name was Stanley.

So, working backwards, the reason we were driving from New Orleans is that we were there taping an episode of the HBO series, "Treme". Huge thanks to another (Jewish) angel, Nancy Coplin, for starting a Facebook page called "We Need Marcia Ball On Treme". I'm not saying that's why we got on but that kind of positive vibe has got to have some effect. We played two of our songs and interacted with some of the real actors. Can't disclose much else but we'll be on episode 4 of the third season which starts in April. It's very exciting for me. I've loved what the series has done for our friends in the city, giving their music a wider audience, making characters out of many of them (who were already characters), supporting the recovery of New Orleans in many ways including raising funds for the New Orleans Musician's Clinic. Thanks to all of the people involved who let us be a part of the community although we live at a distance. And to ice this cake: we got in the evening before and Van and I ate at the Butcher behind Cochon and the rest of the band ate at Lola's. We're still arguing about who had the best meal. Then we went to see Jon Cleary play solo at Chickie Wah Wah and ran into many friends. What a cool club. It's like going to the Saxon or the Continental or Antone's in Austin. Everybody knows your name.

And the reason we were out there east of New Orleans was that we had just finished the Delbert Cruise and three great gigs in Florida starting with Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa on a beautiful night with a great crowd. I'm so glad we get to start our tropical vacation (oops, I mean work tour) there. Then we went across to Lake Worth for the Bamboo Room where they gave us a proper send-off for the cruise - a little sleep deprived, head-achy, happy. On the way across, we made a favorite "stop and visit" of mine with Ruby C. Williams, renowned folk artist and a very inspiring woman. I immediately broke my New Year's resolution of "no new stuff". But how could I not?

And the cruise...just go find Jay Curlee's YouTube postings of songwriters, Pianorama, wonderful songs by Jimmy Hall, Fred Eaglesmith, Eric Lindell, Teresa James, Joe Ely, Paul Thorn, Wayne Toups, Clay McClinton, each and everybody and especially the McCrary Sisters. My personal high point was singing "Where Do You Go?" and "I Wish You Well" with them and my band enhanced by Red Young and the Mingo Fishtrap Horns. Heavenly. The women's songwriter showcase with Gretchen Peters, Matraca Berg, Jill Sobule, Lari White, Kimmie Rhodes and Jonell Mosser was fabulous and the late night sessions with Red on the piano and Raul Malo and others singing jazz standards kept us all up way past our bedtimes. I'm leaving a lot of stuff out! It's impossible. You just have to be there. Part festival, part family reunion, with dancing. Did I mention Delbert? And Glen? And Danny Flowers and Spooner Oldham and Gary Nicholson? All of this with smooth sailing and beautiful weather. I'm telling you if you've been thinking about doing it or "fixin' to do it", don't wait. Do.

Yes, and there's more. We ended our Florida stay with a stop at the Plaza Theater for a show with Jackie Bristow that was a lot of fun. She's great. I got a little lost in old Orlando and discovered the beautiful neighborhoods around downtown with Craftsman houses shaded by big moss-draped oak trees. Really cool and I didn't have any idea it was like that. Plus really good Vietnamese food. Go figure.

And before all of that, the incredible chaos called The Holidays on which I will not elaborate except to suggest that refinishing your hardwood floors between Thanksgiving and Christmas is probably not wise.

Otherwise, I will repeat we are lucky, lucky, lucky to know you, to have work to do, friends to play dominos with, music all around us, a voice to gripe about politicians with and to have at least Rick Perry out of the presidential race although there have been some good laughs. Still hoping for peace, love and BBQ, curly hair and better gas mileage.


June 11, 2012

PLAY, PLAY, PLAY

Okay! Sorry! My friend Kelly tells me I suck at corresponding. She's so right. The Exalted Web Gator tells me I haven't written a Ball Bearings since March (maybe 2011). Well, heck, I haven't even been that busy but too busy to really catch up with all the adventures we've had so far this year. I'd look up the last post but I'm in a basement of the Crossroads Club in Fredericksburg, Texas, with no signal. (Yes, there are some basements in Texas.) If you don't know about Fredericksburg, it's a very charming town in the Texas Hill Country near the Pedernales River founded by German immigrants in 1846. There are beautiful stone buildings and neat early Texas houses, peach orchards and, now, many wineries. Gordon calls it "The South Of France" when he goes to paint out there. If you pass through and head for Mason, Texas, you can stop at Johnny Nicholas' Hilltop Café for a delicious Cajun/Greek meal. Just a small digression into travelogue.

Since last I wrote we've been to Switzerland, Spain, Kessler Theater in Dallas, Navasota (think Mance Lipscomb) Blues Festival, and Earth Day in Baton Rouge where I was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame (Yes!).







Did Jazz Fest in New Orleans with lots of gigs surrounding that - Piano Night for WWOZ, a big Obama fundraiser with many New Orleans bands, Music in the Park at Lafayette Square, Snug Harbor with Joe Krown and Tom McDermott.

A great week! But the high point (Ha!) may have been feeding the giraffes at the Audubon Zoo. That's a hard backstage pass to get but we have connections (and a big ladder).

Then on the way home, we stopped in my home town, Vinton, LA, where there is now a casino, Delta Downs. At this casino on the night we were passing through, Bonnie Raitt was playing on her way in to New Orleans, so we stopped and saw her fantastic show with her great band and got a little visit. Big old fun!




After that we had a little weekend break around Mother's Day and my family celebrated my mother's 90th birthday. A grand time was had by all. Oh, yeah! And in the middle of all that, I got a call that I won the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player award at the Blues Music Awards!

After the family dust all settled, we made a quick trip to Southern California for a gig at a new spot in San Diego called Anthology which was a lot of fun. Then Doheny Blues, one of my favorites. An interesting side note on playing in that part of the country: that weekend, government agents found several tons of marijuana floating a few miles offshore. I swear you could smell it at the festival.

True to our intentions of staying cool, cool, cool, we went from California to points North and Northeast to return to some of our favorite spots, The Ark in Ann Arbor, Saugatuck Center for the Arts, World Music Café in Philadelphia, the Ramshead in Annapolis and the State Theater in Falls Church.

We played two new, for us, venues: the Rex Theater in Pittsburgh and the Boulton Center YMCA in Bayshore, NY and we really enjoyed them both and hope we can become regulars there, too. The whole trip was capped off by a real special gig - Michael Arnone's Crawfish Fest in Augusta, NJ. Always the best Louisiana bands and tons of crawfish and his dad, Vince's, delicious jambalaya. It's a little piece of the Gulf Coast transported to New Jersey and there's even usually some Louisiana weather which they try to blame me for (but NO!). That doesn't dampen anyone's spirits and the whole place is dancing.

And so we're now out of the basement and going to the Texas Gulf Coast for the Rockport Music Festival and on the way, we had to stop in Luling, one of the watermelon capitals of the state, to eat barbecue and pick up a yellow meat and a black diamond. Oh, the richness of piles of big dark watermelons, the smell of barbecue. It's just like a couple of our songs.

And at Rockport, it was rocking! Dem Ole Greezy Wheels started the day on Sunday, then an all-star band with Derek O'Brien and David Grissom and Chris Layton, followed by a very special group - The Blues Broads - consisting of Angela Strehli, Tracy Nelson, Dorothy Morrison and Annie Samson. What a rare treat it is to see and hear them all together. We played next and the evening was capped off by Los Lobos, which is probably the reason my band van was full of people who aren't actually in the band. In spite of what they said, I don't think they rode down there because they needed to see the MBB one more time. It was a lovely evening on Copano Bay with a breeze and Los Lobos in a close up, casual setting that was perfect for their music. Of course, they're in my Big Five Faves anyway but this was the way to enjoy them. And I got one of my "bass player" pictures that night:

So, there. I've written. Thanks to all of you who have reminded me that I should. Otherwise, I think I've reverted back to my life as a teenager, hopefully without all the angst and pendulum emotions. My perfect day is taking Pilates, studying Spanish, riding my bicycle, playing with my grandsons, playing dominos, and, oh yeah, playing music. Play, play, play! And that's what I'm going to go do right now. There's a silly song in my head and it's got to come out.


November 26, 2013

TRYING SOMETHING NEW (ALWAYS GOOD)

I’m going to try something new to revive something old. I’ve not been posting any Ball Bearings for a long time now because I was overtaken by the short attention span process of Facebook but I realize that many of my friends don’t do the time eating, mind numbing, pictures of my lunch posting plaything, so I’m asking the Webgator if he will help me compile some of my less irritating posts into a Ball Bearing and send that out on occasion. Let’s see if he eats them for lunch. Picture please.

What have I been up to? Reading David Rhodes - Driftless, Rock Island Line and Jewelweed - in that order. Wonderful Iowa/Wisconsin novels and the story of Rhodes' life is as interesting as the books. Listening to Bill Carter acoustic with Kimmie and Gabe Rhodes (mother and son) at the Saxon Pub just a few blocks from my house. Cooking a big old lamb stew with carrots and potatoes. Planning a new record. Got the titles. Working on the songs. Happy to be home.

Texas history buffs - I'm deep into "The Son", a novel by Philipp Meyer. Louisiana history buffs - I loved "The Clearing", a novel by Tim Gautreaux. Music fans - Schermer and I been writing on some songs. Domino players - I won today! Of course, I'm the scorekeeper.

Plus, fun with the scanner! Another project which I’ll explain soon requires me to go through boxes of old photos. This is one of my favorite pictures. Backstage at La Zona Rosa with Lucinda Williams, Mandy Mercier, Katy Louella Moffett, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, Charlene Hancock, and Rosie Flores. About 1991?

On Facebook people post old photos on Throwback Thursday: It was a pogo stick Christmas for Karen Dugas and me. Apparently, Van got rubber boots and a box of cereal. Must have been about 1958.

And while I’m digging in old photo boxes I unearthed this one. Someone sent a message asking if I had ever met Patsy Montana. Well, yes. On my first ever record, a 45, we did "I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart" and after researching the copyrights, we put Public Domain on the label. Two radio stations in the country played it: KOKE in Austin and KFAT in Gilroy, CA. Next thing I know, my phone rings and Patsy Montana says, "I hear you recorded my song and didn't credit me." Oops! So we talked, I explained and apologized. Patsy came to Austin and we played Soap Creek Saloon and the Kerrville Folk Festival. She stayed at my house. Knowing Patsy was fun, inspiring and one of the high points of my musical life. That woman could yodel! She kept her love of life and performing always. This photo is by Ken Hoge at Soap Creek in May, 1977

The band is taking a break for the next few weeks but December will find us all over Texas. Come out and help celebrate the holidays with us in one of these spots if you can.

Friday, Dec 6th - Trail of Lights Zilker Park, Austin (I will be sitting in with Ray Benson
and Asleep At The Wheel along with a few others)
Saturday, Dec 7th - Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater, College Station
Sunday, Dec 8th - Sam's Burger Joint, San Antonio (Austin's Lauren Silva opening)
Saturday, Dec 14th - Odeon Theater, Mason
Sunday, Dec 22nd - Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, Austin
Tuesday, Dec 31st - Dosey Doe Cafe, The Woodlands

We’re wishing all of you Happy Holidays, Peace, Love and Barbecue, Safe Travels, Warm Friendships, Cool Christmas Presents and Lots of Music in the New Year.




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