This is a very interesting trip back to times past and vividly illustrates that, though Earl Poole Ball may have been Johnny Cash's piano player for 20 years, he, as a composer and performer, has a hell of a lot more in common with Willie Nelson…and I can't help but hear a good deal of Ray Price as well. But there's a difference present: Ball's enthusiasms and verve come through a lot more clearly in a way that Willie and Ray never evoked. The biographical title song shows this in spades and will make the listener an instant fan…if, that is, he or she is a connoisseur of down-home, jes'folks, good times music, which of course I just happen to be.
Pianography is an unorthodox compendium composed of seven new songs, four live tracks from the 2010 Johnny Cash Bash birthday celebration memorial, and two short songs from the vaults, rescued from '67 and '77. Say You Love Me is a jug, country, oom-pah-pah, let's-git-drunk cut that showcases Ball's honky-tonkin' wont, but my favorite selection is Something's Gonna Get Us All, which has a lot in common with Mike Nesmith, Ray Stevens, even some Tom Waits and a little John Kay. As things progress, it becomes ever clearer why The Flying Burrito Bros., Buck Owens, Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard, and others asked him in to their recording sessions. Not only is he good but the gent must've been a passel of fun as well. There's that vibe in just about everything he does (except, of course, for the cool-ass sob-a-tear ballads).
Ya can't help but grin when getting a glimpse at the Casey Kasem-looking guy Ball was long ago, pictured on the back cover, and the delta-distinguished grizzled cat he is now, shown on the front. The recording here is not perfect nor should it be; that would've changed the atmosphere too much, shifted timbre into something that would have lost far too much spirit. Like I say, there's a jug feel to E.P. Ball's oeuvre, and the lyrics to The Real Me give it away. In an interesting rock 'n roll tickle, recorded in either 2012 or 2013, the song also would not have been out of place on Paul Kantner's Blows Against the Empire in the 60s. Some people fade and crash as they age, and some just can't help but get hipper and hipper. Earl Poole Ball is definitely among the latter.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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