Starting out in South Carolina's legendarily eclectic Uncle Walt's Band, honkytonker David Ball became part of the Austin outlaw-indie scene in the 1970s; in the following decade he moved to Nashville and made a go at a commercial career. It took a while for things to work out: his first album didn't come out until 1994 though he scored two #2 hits, including the haunting "Riding With Private Malone," which became one of the early anthems of the post-9/11 era. An excellent hard-country singer, Ball has consistently created first-rate independent and mainstream twang... Here's a quick look at his career...
David Ball "Super Hits" (Warner Nashville, 2000)
David Ball "Thinkin' Problem" (Warner, 1994)
(Produced by Blake Chancey)
A true-country neo-trad throwback album, full of good, strong, heartbroken honky-tonk tunes. Nice, solidly structured, well written stuff... reminds me of Gary Stewart, with more than just a little whiff of George Jones in the mix as well... Ball scored big on his major label debut, hitting #2 on the charts with the title track, "Thinking Problem," a self-penned novelty song that put him on the map, along with plantinum album sales. Even though his next big hit was a long time coming, the guy sure made a big splash. This is a great record, though... Recommended!
David Ball "David Ball" (RCA, 1994)
(Produced by Billy Williams & Bill Halverson)
Although this came out in '94, the tracks were from sessions Ball recorded in the late '80s when he was signed to RCA... A few singles came out but nothing really sizzled and the record got shelved... Well, at least until Thinkin' Problem came out and Ball was suddenly a hot property.
David Ball "Starlight Lounge" (Warner, 1996)
David Ball "Play" (Warner, 1999)
David Ball "Amigo" (Dual Tone, 2001)
(Produced by Wood Newton)
An old-fashioned craftsman of bright, poppy honkytonk tunes, David Ball brings to mind Lyle Lovett, with his catchy, easygoing style of slightly-rockin', slightly-bluesy Texas shuffles. There's also a trace of Jimmy Buffett (and I mean that in a good way!) with his laid-back approach, and occasional dips into tropical-themed material (such as "She Always Talked About Mexico"). This is a fun album, with some wonderfully shameless novelty material (for example, a bar that is "Loser Friendly", and -- in his big Top 40 hit -- the super-retro patriotic twist on the old "Teen Angel" car crash epics, "Riding With Private Malone," where a guy buys a car with the ghostly former owner -- an MIA Vietnam veteran -- acting as its guardian angel...) The timing was just right, too: "Private Malone" had a nice, subtle patriotic theme which really resonated with country fans after the tragedy of 9/11. A nice, solid album -- slick, but worth checking out.
David Ball "Freewheeler" (Wildcatter, 2004)
David Ball "Heartaches By The Number" (Shanachie, 2007)
Like other hitmakers who have recently been cast aside, David Ball is a former Nashville headliner who's gone indie -- I guess it's just easier that way -- and here he's rolled out an affectionate love-letter to good, old-fashioned hard country, singin' oldies from Bob Wills, Harlan Howard, Carl Belew, Hank Locklin and Webb Pierce. Sounds good to me. Ball, who's a mighty fine songwriter himself, contributes "Please Feed The Jukebox," and sings it all with sincerity, authority and depth. In a sense, it's too bad he's cut off from the Nashville wall'o'sound, since his thin, somewhat plain voice actually did benefit from heavy production in a way that many singers do not. But this bare-bones set is an affirmation of faith, and Ball is clearly a singer who knows the way. Fans will be happy, and eager for more.
David Ball "Sparkle City" (E1, 2010)
Hick Music Index