Marcia Ball

Presumed Innocent

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Those looking for blues, R&B, rootsy rock & roll, gospel-tinged ballads, loungy supper club jazz, and boogie-woogie piano pounding all led by an instantly recognizable powerhouse voice infused with gritty soul will rejoice with Marcia Ball. Although this is only her sixth album since her career shifted into high gear with 1984's Soulful Dress, Ball hits all those bases and more on her debut for Alligator. She's as comfortable with heart-wrenching lost-love songs like this album's touching "Let the Tears Roll Down" as with loose-limbed swampy piano/accordion-powered rockers such as "Louella." Her show-stopping piano virtuosity takes a back seat for the majority of this release, as Ball turns up the tough R&B heat on a cover of "Fly on the Wall" with guests Sonny Landreth on slide guitar and backing singers right out of Aretha Franklin's '60s heyday. Horns also play a large part, underpinning the Bobby "Blue" Bland-styled Crescent City soul-blues and rolling Fats Domino piano of Don Covay's "I'm Coming Down With the Blues." The opening "Scene of the Crime," powered by Gary Primich's plucky harmonica, is one of Ball's best tracks, with a snappy melody, gutsy singing, and Southern-fried R&B attack. Allen Toussaint's "You Make It Hard" finds fellow Texan Delbert McClinton on duet vocals highlighting the track's urging slow groove. Classy and subdued yet bubbling with passion, emotion, and a love of Southern-style music that explodes out of every track, with Presumed Innocent Marcia Ball has released what is arguably the finest and most inspired album of her career.

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