FAME Review: Marcia Ball - The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man
Marcia Ball - The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man

The Tattooed Lady and
the Alligator Man

Marcia Ball

Alligator Records - ALCD 4964

Available from Alligator Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Roberta B. Schwartz

No one sings and plays piano like Marcia Ball. She's been writing and singing the Gulf Coast Blues and New Orleans R&B since she started out on the road in the early 1970's. She has received five Grammy Award nominations. She is known all over the world for her powerful piano playing and her husky-voiced blues.

The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man is her sixth recording on Alligator Records. All of Ball's hallmarks are here: the all out roadhouse rhythm and blues that grab hold of you and do not let you go, the rip roaring Louisiana piano playing, and the stories of the rich and vibrant people who populate the Gulf Coast she knows so well.

Ball also knows how to surround herself with the right musicians who bring out the best in her. These are: Don Bennett on bass, Damien Llanes on drums, Michael Schermer on guitar and Thad Scott on tenor sax. Delbert McClinton, Terreance Simien and Amy Helm, among others, make guest appearances.

The recording opens with the lively, honky tonk title tune, The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man, and what a way to begin the party! The song tells the story of how the tattooed lady hooked up with the alligator man, and concerns itself with their adventures on the carnival circuit. Jimmy Shortell on trumpet and Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff on baritone sax make special appearances here. You will have a hard time not getting up to dance on this one!

Just Keep Holding On is a ballad that pays tribute to a solid relationship that keeps on keeping on because the couple involved work at it. There is a wonderful, soulful harmony vocal by Wendy Moten that works beautifully with Ball's alto. And Thad Scott and Mark Kazanoff on tenor and baritone sax respectively, do some fine work on the brass section here.

The very contemporary The Squeeze is On addresses the current economic climate of trying to make a living by simply getting by and paying the bills. Terrance Simien shines on accordion and harmony vocals. Van Moutan plays a very engaging frottoir, or Cajun washboard, as we might call it. This is real Cajun music, and a winner of a song.

The CD closes with the jazzy The Last to Know. Marcia spins out her special magic on the piano keys, Roscoe Beck plays a mean bass, and Jimmy Shortell on trumpet and Randy Zimmerman on trombone hold up the brass section.

If you are looking to liven up a party, a dark day, or you are simply in the mood for some of the best American made music out there, Marcia Ball on keys and vocals is your woman. Backed by some of the finest musicians, and with Grammy-winning producer Tom Hambridge putting the project together, The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man is one of the most engaging musical adventures of the last year. Take a listen and I dare you not to start tapping your feet. This one is a winner from beginning to end. Marcia Ball is an American treasure.

Track List:

  • The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man
  • Clean My House
  • Just Keep Holding On
  • Like There's No Tomorrow
  • He's the One (Hank Ballard)
  • The Squeeze is On (Marcia Ball and Michael Schermer)
  • Hot Springs
  • Human Kindness (Marcia Ball and Michael Schermer)
  • Can't Blame Nobody But Myself
  • Lazy Blues
  • Get You a Woman
  • The Last to Know
All songs written by Marcia Ball except where noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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