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May 2001

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Marcia Ball
Presumed Innocent
Alligator Records

Marcia Ball - Presumed Innocent Maybe it's all this French blood in my veins, but I'm a real sucker for Louisiana culture. I'll enter every restaurant that has anything on the menu with "gumbo," I'll gladly spend half a month's rent for a Fats Domino boxed set, and if you want to see a man smile, just play me some second-line rhythm. 

So when I got Marcia Ball's brand new album, Presumed Innocent, her first for Alligator, in the mail the other day, I couldn't contain my joy. The boxes I need to pack before I can move to my new house would have to wait. The classy lady with the longest legs in the business beckoned. I'm glad I gave in to her siren call. As soon as the music started, the thermometer climbed up a few degrees, the sun came out shining, and I couldn't stop wriggling about on my chair. 

Backed by her habitual group, augmented by a few choice guests (including Delbert McClinton, who duets with Ball on the Allen Toussaint-penned "You Make it Hard," and Sonny Landreth for a couple of blistering slide solos), Marcia Ball takes on Louisiana music (New Orleans R&B, Cajun-influenced rockers), R&B (including Stax-styled soul) and sad, late-night ballads with equal success. 

There's also a rockabilly track called "Shake a Leg" where she's got those Jerry Lee Lewis yelps down pat, and which I'm dying to see her do on stage. Add some witty observations and humor, as in the accordion-tinged "Louella" (one of five Ball-penned cuts), and excellent work from co-producers Doyle Bramhall and Ms. Ball, plus an excellent song selection, and you've one big happiness-inducing record. Guess what music I'm going to play when I do get around to packing those boxes.

--- Benoît Brière

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