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September 2014

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Marcia Ball
The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man
Alligator Records

Marcia Ball

You’ve got to love Marcia Ball. I’m listening to her new release on Alligator Records, The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man, and while the disc absolutely rocks, I’m enamored with the artwork. There are a couple of photos of Marcia in full tattooed splendor; first as obvious trailer trash and the second has her in a wedding dress getting married to the Alligator Man. Kudos to Marcia for not only penning a fun song but having the sense of humor required to pull off the requirements of the artwork.

But enough of that, let’s see what Marcia and producer Tom Hambridge have in store for us this go around.

The title track has a slightly vaudevillian feel to hit and we’re off. “Well…the tattooed lady and the alligator man….living in a trailer in the Promised Land…in the summertime…they hit the road…playing every corner across the land…the tattooed lady and the alligator man.” The star attraction for sure, and I’m impressed with Marcia’s vivid imagery for this tune. “Clean My House” is Marcia’s solution to whatever bad may be ailing her. “I’m going to clean my house…early in the morning…I’m going to sweep it out…and make a new start…I’m going to make it just like you…and clean my house.” Marcia’s never down for long and cleaning her house is the perfect antidote to whatever might ail her.

“Just Keep Holding On” is a love song and I appreciate the horn arrangements of Thad Scott for this tune. “You are a part of me…your love is with me everyday…I know down in the heart of me…you will never slip away…and the test of time…will make us stronger…we’ll just keep holding on.” We move on to “Like There’s No Tomorrow” and I’m liking the Louisiana vibe Marcia and the band are laying down. “We came to party…like there’s no tomorrow…let’s get it started…before the sun goes down…we’re going to play a little music…kick off your shoes and let’s go to town.” Marcia’s in fine form on the keys and the horns kick in to give the tune a classic Mardi Gras tone.

The beautiful ballad, “He’s the One,” is next and Marcia’s passion for her man is obvious. “Listen to me, please…I’ll tell you no lie…I’ll stay with him…until the day I die…he’s the one…who makes me feel good…and I’ll always do…the things that I should.” Marcia’s true to her man and appreciates the care and love he’s shown her throughout the years. Mike Schermer kicks in with some passionate fretwork and Marcia’s love for her man is complete. The accordion of one Terrance Simien makes its appearance as Marcia moves on to her next tune, “The Squeeze is On.” Times are tough, there are bills to pay and “the squeeze is on.” Marcia’s a resilient woman and I have no doubt she’ll make it all work.

I have good friends in Hot Springs, Arkansas and so Marcia’s tune “Hot Springs” cracks me up. Her man is working in a bathhouse in Hot Springs and that just bodes trouble. “The stories I’ve been hearing…the things they do up there…those whiskey drinking women…they’re the wildest anywhere…he says he really loves me…but know I have my doubts…I have to go to Arkansas…and get my baby out.” I can say from experience that Marcia’s fears are well- founded and it would serve her well to get there ASAP. Another ballad, “Human Kindness,” follows, and Marcia’s advice to humanity is well intentioned. “We’ve got the same dreams…we’ve got the same plans…we’ve got to raise our voices up…for our fellow man…when we open up our hearts…the light comes shining through…human kindness flows…from me and you.” Lord knows a little human kindness would go a long way in this world we live in.

Marcia’s piano is at the forefront and she’s hammering the keys as the band segues into “Can’t Blame Nobody But Myself.” “I spent all my money…wasted my time…drinking and gambling…till I haven’t got a dime…don’t cry about it…can’t blame nobody but myself.” I appreciate this tune’s energy and Marcia’s self-reliance to be the one to tackle her problems head on. A slow and mellow pattern emanates from Marcia’s fingertips as she brings down the tempo for our next tune, “Lazy Blues.” “My heart is breaking…my back is aching…I don’t know what I’m doing….since I got these lazy blues.” Hopefully the mood will pass and Marcia will be back to her good, old self soon.

I’m not sure I completely appreciate the advice Marcia gives in her next tune, “Get You a Woman,” but I know she means well. “You’ve got to get you a woman…if you know what’s good for you.” I know there are some men in the world who need that push but I’m not convinced all of us do.

The final song on Marcia’s new disc, “The Last to Know,” finds her in a reflective mood again as she is evidently going through some hard relationship moments. “Funny as the room gets quiet…when I walk in…everybody smiles and looks away…and finally some hypocrite…who calls herself my friend…comes over…just to see what I have to say…and I say…someday you should have a love…like I have…you should see it start…and watch it grow…you should feel the heartache…when it starts to go bad…and when it’s over…honey, you should be the last to know.”

The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man is an outstanding record from Marcia and the band that we’ll all be hearing a lot about over the next several months. It’s in my Top Ten list for sure and a strong contender for Contemporary Record of the Year. Marcia’s not getting older, she’s getting better and we’re all better off because of that. Can’t wait to see her next show and hear the band perform these tunes live.

--- Kyle Deibler


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