Boogie down

Summer is only a few months away, but you’ll be feeling the heat when Marcia Ball brings her Southern-flavored mix of blues, R&B, rock and soul to town this weekend. Ball has been burning up stages around the world with her full-bodied vocals and two-fisted New Orleans boogie piano playing for more than three decades. Born in Orange, Texas, and raised in Vinton, La., Ball was exposed to music at a young age. She began taking piano lessons at age 5 and learned Tin Pan Alley tunes from her grandmother’s collection. But as she grew older, she became more influenced by a myriad of Gulf Coast musical styles including blues, gospel, swamp pop and zydeco. In 1970, she embarked on a cross-country trip to San Francisco but ended up in Austin, Texas, where she began her musical career playing in a progressive country band called Freda and the Firedogs. During this time, Ball began to hone her songwriting skills and delve into the music of great New Orleans piano players such as Professor Longhair. Ball found her direction as a piano player and began her solo career. She was briefly signed to Capitol Records in the late 1970s, but it wasn’t until she moved to the Rounder label in the 1980s that she had her first taste of success. She released six albums while on Rounder, including the 1998 hit album, Sing It!, featuring vocalist Tracy Nelson and Ball’s childhood inspiration, R&B singer Irma Thomas. The album was nominated for a Grammy and Blues Music Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Ball also received the 1998 Blues Music Award for Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year. The kudos continued with Presumed Innocent, her 2001 debut on Alligator Records, and her 2003 album, So Many Rivers, which won the 2004 Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year. Her latest release is Live! Down the Road, which was recorded in Chico, Calif., and features a collection of old favorites, newer material and covers of songs by Randy Newman and Duke Robillard. Austin Chronicle calls the CD “the one Marcia Ball album everyone should own.” Ball performs 8 p.m. April 15 at the Celebrity Showroom inside John Ascuaga’s Nugget, 1100 Nugget Ave., Sparks. Tickets are $30. Call 356-3300.