A little bit of the bayou came to DC by way of Austin, Texas, Monday night in the form of R&B artist Marcia Ball. Kicking off her performance with the tune “Red Beans,” an old blues tune by McKinley Morganfield, Marcia played a selection of songs from her new album, Shine Bright, as well as old favorites.
Next, Marcia played a cover of “Just Kiss Me” by Duke Robillard, a contemporary blues artist. She followed that by getting into her new album, playing the title track from Shine Bright. After “Shine Bright,” which name checked several heroes including Jackie Robinson, Marcia said when she was writing the song, people gave her lists with suggestions for names of heroes. One that seemed obvious was to her was her favorite composer, Frederic Chopin.
And giving props to astronomy, Marcia expressed surprise that no one suggested Copernicus. Marcia and the band then played several more songs from the new album: “I Got to Find Somebody,” “Take a Little Louisiana,” “What I Do Without You,” and “Life of the Party.”
After “Life of the Party,” the band played a song by Marcia’s lead guitarist, Mike Schermer. Marcia played one more song from Shine Bright with “When Mardi Gras Is Over,” and then “Too Much for Me,” before playing “He’s The One” and “The Squeeze Is On,” from 2014’s The Tattooed Lady and The Alligator Man.
Listen to Shine Bright by Marcia Ball on Spotify:
Before playing “Sugar Boogie,” Marcia spoke to the audience. She said that songwriters often get asked whether their work is autobiographical, and she likes to quote her friend James McMurtry, who says that would be “short and boring.” Marcia told the audience that sometimes, yes, they are autobiographical, but sometimes they just make things up, and sometimes they’re eavesdropping on the people around, so you can never tell what they might hear and turn into a song. “Sugar Boogie,” Marcia explained, is her mother’s story, growing up on a sugar plantation in Louisiana.
Following “Sugar Boogie,” Marcia came back to the new album and played “Pots and Pans,” the most political song of both the album and the evening. Marcia then reached way back and played the crowd-pleaser “That’s Enough of That Stuff,” from 1985’s Hot Tamale Baby. She closed her set with the title track from 1997’s Let Me Play With Your Poodle, by the great Tampa Red.
Throughout the performance, guitarist Mike and the sax player stepped up to the edge of the stage to play dynamic solos. Mike shredded away to the delight of the crowd, drawing applause. The sax player similarly drew applause for his soulful solos. The audience also got involved by clapping along to several of the songs.
Marcia and the band came back for a two-song encore, after which they received a standing ovation. Marcia graciously signed copies of her CD for fans, as did other members of the band who had copies of their CDs on hand. The crowd left extremely happy after another terrific evening of great music at the City Winery.