Marcia Ball: Peace, Love & BBQ

A stalwart specialist in Gulf Coast blues/R&B/zydeco, Marcia Ball is already familiar to Texas audiences for her clear-toned vocals and pounding piano — the imaginary musical daughter of Irma Thomas and Professor Longhair. And though she rarely deviates from her formula of mixing let-the-good-times-roll romps with plaintively romantic torch songs, she usually finds strength in that combination. Her music has long been a soundtrack for a lifestyle.

Still, this latest collection is a definite step down from recent efforts like Presumed Innocent and So Many Rivers for that very same reason: Marcia Ball is flirting — even dry-humping — with blandness. From the generic sounds and cookie cutter lyrics of "Party Town" (an affectionate if trite tribute to N'awlins), to the slow-paced tent revival tale of "Miracle in Knoxville," to the maudlin hurricane remembrance of "Ride It Out," it's just not Ball at her best. Even a duet with Dr. John on "I'll Never Be Free" sounds like the good physician of voodoo gris-gris is about to fall asleep. (Even by his occasionally narcoleptic standards.)

Not that there are no bright spots — the second-line feel and sax/guitar greatness of "Watermelon Time," the character sketch "Right Back In It" and the emotional ballad "Falling Back in Love With You" are all highlights. Unfortunately, Peace, Love & BBQ finds a Texas favorite in a bit of a creative rut, though most of her faithful fans won't necessarily know the difference. Time for that Freda & the Firedogs reunion album!

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero