Ball and Bishop join forces for a Valentine’s Day concert
Valentine’s Day in Park City will get sweeter with the musical pairing of award-winning blues artists Marcia Ball and Elvin Bishop, who will perform at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Feb. 14.
Pianist Ball and guitarist Bishop have performed together throughout their illustrious careers, but this will be the first time they’ll join forces in Park City.
The Park Record talked with Ball and Bishop in separate interviews earlier this month to talk about the upcoming concert.
Both were looking forward to playing together and showing Park City a good time.
Marcia Ball: Piano lady with a New Orleans-inspired attitude
Ball, whose new album, "Tattoo Lady & the Alligator Man," was released a few months ago, said she didn’t have to think too much about performing with Bishop, and it was easy to organize the show, during her interview from Austin, Texas.
"We’re all the same agency, so it’s like a one-stop shop for a pretty good roster of Americana music," Ball said. "We’ve worked with Elvin quite a bit in the past. In fact, my guitarist Mike Schermer played with Elvin for quite a while. So, you can say we have crossed paths a lot through the years and we play well together."
Much of Ball’s solo set will feature songs from her new album. Of the 12 tracks on the album, Ball wrote 11. Some of them were written years ago or incomplete when she decided to finish them up.
"One, ‘Hot Springs,’ which I never thought I would record, was just half-written and I thought sounded too much like a ZZ Top song," she laughed. "But I wanted to rock a little on this record and it became a better song than I thought it would be."
Another old song is the jazzy ballad and album closer, "The Last to Know."
"This was a case where I knew I wanted a song in that style and feel — it’s kind of a Ray Charles arrangement with horns in the low register — and I looked around and remembered writing a song and didn’t think I recorded it," she giggled. "Sure enough, there it was."
All of the songs represent Ball’s views on life.
"Usually I like to have a song that has some depth to it, kind of like what people call a message song," she said. "If I know I have that, then I feel like I’m ready to go and record an album."
The song that fits those criteria is the gospel-esque "Human Kindness," which is about unity.
"I had that ready early in the process for the record," she said.
While arranging the song, Ball wanted to feature some strong harmony vocals.
"I knew that I wanted to have my wonderful friends Shelley King, Carolyn Wonderland and Amy Helm sing harmonies," she said. "They tuned out to be much more wonderful than I hoped it to be. That was great."
Other musical guests who appear on the album include Delbert McClinton and Terrance Simien, whom Ball met during her career.
"My piano-playing peaks have been working with Dr. John as a producer and duet partner and Allen Toussaint, another New Orleans guy," she said. "Of course Irma Thomas was my musical hero and is now my friend, which I’m really proud of."
Meeting her idols and peers isn’t the only perk of the job. Ball has also won a string of awards and accolades including the Living Blues Reader’s Poll Award for Most Outstanding Musician.
"It’s wonderful to be validated by your peers and fans," she said. "It’s also a testimony of my record company, Alligator Records, and before that, Rounder, that have supported me all through this.
"I would love to win a Grammy, yeah, but I just love I get to keep playing," she said. "I’m in awe of where I am. I’m breathless."
Elvin Bishop: Guitarist thrives on the luck of the blues
Bishop, who has been playing the blues since the late 1950s, was introduced to a whole new audience when his 1975 Top 5 hit "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" was included in James Gunn’s surprise hit sci-fi and Marvel Comics film "Guardians of the Galaxy."
"I’m getting a lot of lucky breaks lately, I’m thinking of going and buying a lotto ticket," Bishop said during his interview from northern California.
Former Jefferson Starship vocalist Mickey Thomas, who is one of the guest vocalists on Bishop’s new album, "Can’t Even Do Wrong Right", sang the song.
"Mickey, boy, he’s an amazing guy and one of the nicest person you could ever know," Bishop said. "We’ve been pursuing our careers separately for a hundred years, now, and when I wrote this tune called ‘Let Your Woman Have Your Way’ and it reminded of ‘Fooled Around and Fell in Love,’ and I knew there was no way I could sing it. If you hear my voice, you know it’s not a thing of beauty, but I knew Mickey could sing it."
Bishop called Thomas.
"I was lucky to catch him with some spare time and he came up to my studio to do it," Bishop said. "After all these years, he hasn’t lost a bit of his high end. He still has a beautiful voice and I think, now, he knows how to use it better. It’s an amazing thing."
The album’s title was derived from a story Bishop’s bassist, Ruth Davies, would tell.
"Ruth talked about some saxophone player she worked with who always said, "I can’t even do wrong right,’" Bishop explained. "I started thinking about that and, you know when you watch the news and see a story about these dumb criminals who drop their wallet at the scene of the crime or those guys who authorities find stuck in the cooling vents of the 7-11? I decided to write a song about those guys."
Bishop fondly looked back at his career and reiterated the fact that he was a lucky musician.
"Another part is you always see football coaches or baseball mangers that say they look at their talent and try to set up a game plan that will take advantage of them," he said. "I try to put guys in these slots who I’m pretty sure who can knock the ball out of the park.
"It’s not so much being a genius, but being lucky enough to find and meet these musicians throughout my career," he said. "I’m also lucky because the kind of stuff I like is the kind of stuff musicians like."
Another stroke of luck for Bishop came when he was approached to perform with Ball in Park City.
"I like Marcia a lot," he said. "She’s a real nice person and sweet. Her music is really good, you know? You watch her play and she’s right on it. She’s strong and has a great band."
The Park City Institute will present Marcia Ball and Elvin Bishop at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, Feb. 14. The music will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $69 and are available by calling 435-655-31145 or by visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org.
Blue Moon Ranch alpacas will welcome spring and visitors during an open bar day on Saturday.